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SportsMixed Martial Arts

What's next for UFC after Jacksonville events? 

UFC President Dana White attends the grand opening

UFC President Dana White attends the grand opening night for "R.U.N - The First Live Action Thriller" presented By Cirque du Soleil at Luxor Hotel and Casino on November 14, 2019 in Las Vegas. Credit: Getty Images for Cirque du Solei/Ethan Miller

From Brooklyn to California to Florida, UFC 249 is well-traveled, and none of the fights on the final iteration of the card have even taken place yet.

That will change Saturday as the mixed martial arts promotion begins an eight-day, three-event run at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’m excited to get this fight behind me and start next week,” UFC president Dana White said on ESPN’s “Get Up” show Friday morning. “We have a fight Wednesday and Saturday, too, of next week. I’m excited to get the schedule going. Get live sports back for people and prove to the world that this can be done safely.”

UFC 249 will be the first major live sporting event in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic forced all the leagues to either suspend or cancel games and seasons. The promotion is testing everyone involved with the events for COVID-19.

OK, but then what? Las Vegas. (Maybe.)

White told Sports Illustrated earlier this week that he’s planning to put on an event in Las Vegas on May 23. He did not reveal a venue to SI, but on Friday’s “Get Up” appearance, he suggested it would be at UFC Apex.

“It makes more sense with what’s going on for us to be doing the events at our own arena,” White said “It’ll be a lot safer for my employees, the athletic commission, the fighters. I hope to have fights there this month.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission remains closed, in accordance with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order in mid-March. NSAC would have to sanction the events before it can officially take place.

UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein told Newsday on Thursday that they already have submitted their health and safety operations manual to the commission and Nevada officials.

“We’re working with the athletic commission and the governor’s office and local authorities,” Epstein said. “So I’m really hopeful that we’ll be doing events at the Apex relatively soon.”

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