UFC 249 is still on schedule for April 18, with Tony Ferguson fighting Justin Gaethje for an interim lightweight title in the main event, the AP reports. Although UFC President Dana White hasn’t announced a venue for his promotion's biggest pay-per-view show of the spring, he remains determined to hold an event in less than two weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The mixed martial arts promotion announced the change to UFC 249's main event bout Monday. Gaethje replaces lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is apparently unable to leave Russia amid the pandemic. "The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!!” White tweeted Monday. White also confirmed several additional matchups for UFC 249. Former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade will meet in the penultimate bout, and heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Jair Rozenstruik also will compete.
Even if the UFC fights without fans as expected, most US states and developed nations have restrictions in place that would make it impossible to stage an MMA show. White later told TMZ he is attempting to secure the use of a private island to hold several shows over the next two months, flying the fighters and support personnel to the island on private planes. He said the UFC will screen the health of every participant before the fights occur. White's quest hit another obstacle later Monday when the Association of Ringside Physicians issued a statement calling for the indefinite suspension of all combat sports events. To hold an event, White will have to find ringside physicians willing to work against the ARP's recommendation. (Meanwhile, the NBA expects uncertainty until at least May, the NHL may skip directly to the playoffs, MLB has been discussing a potential plan, and this columnist thinks an NFL season is unlikely.)