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UFC 249 first of three events scheduled to return next month

Tony Ferguson, right, punches Donald Cerrone, left, during

Tony Ferguson, right, punches Donald Cerrone, left, during their lightweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 238 in Chicago on June 8, 2019. Credit: AP/Kamil Krzaczynski

The on-and-off status of UFC 249 because of the coronavirus pandemic was switched back to on with Friday's announcement that the mixed martial arts promotion will put on three events next month in Florida.

The events — scheduled for May 9, 13 and 16 — are set to take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. No fans will be allowed to attend and the cards will be produced with just "essential personnel," the UFC said in a release. ESPN and ESPN+ will broadcast the events.

Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deemed sports "essential business" in the state as long as no fans were present. 

“As we move step-by-step on the path toward economic recovery, we are proud to host these UFC events at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said in a news release. “The UFC organization is a renowned entertainment brand that’s presented a safe and sensible plan to use this Jacksonville location, and we are thrilled to have our city highlighted nationally on ESPN and ESPN+. With Jacksonville continuing to outpace other cities and regions, we are excited to continue to lead as host to these world-class, international sports entertainment organizations.”

UFC 249 on May 9 will be a pay-per-view event and features two title fights and a deep lineup of intriguing bouts with well-known names. It is headlined by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje battling for the interim lightweight title. The co-main event features bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo defending his title against former champion Dominick Cruz.

The early preliminaries begin at 6:30 p.m. and will stream on UFC Fight Pass and be simulcast on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes. The 8 p.m. prelim will be shown on ESPN and ESPN+, and the main card will be on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

“I can’t wait to deliver some great fights for the fans," UFC president Dana White said in the release. “I want to give a big thanks to Mayor Curry, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and Florida State Boxing Commission Executive Director Patrick Cunningham for getting this thing done and giving us a venue to put on these incredible cards, as well our media partners including ESPN and ESPN+, for bringing it to fans. My team is ready to go and the fighters are excited to get back in there with these back-to-back events.”

UFC 249 originally was scheduled for April 18, first in Brooklyn's Barclays Center and later the Tachi Palace on tribal lands in Lemoore, California. The card officially was postponed on April 9 when White said people at "the highest levels" of ESPN and parent company Disney asked him to "stand down" and not put on the event.  The UFC then postponed all subsequent cards. The last UFC event to take place was on March 14 in Brasilia, Brazil. No fans were allowed in for that event.

The lineups for the events scheduled for May 13 and 16 have not yet been announced.

“Florida welcomes the UFC to the Sunshine State, and our commission stands ready to sanction the events to be held on May 9, 13 and 16," Florida State Boxing Commission Executive Director Patrick Cunningham said in the release. "Health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible.  With this triple date feature of UFC events coming in May, Florida is continuing to build a strong collaboration with UFC that sets the foundation for more opportunities that we hope UFC will choose to host in our state in the months to come.”

New York Sports