Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, Russian athletes and sports teams continue to be hit with sanctions from governments and sporting governing bodies around the world. The sanctions have not directly affected the UFC, but there are concerns the UFC London main event could potentially be impacted.
Last week the UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel, tweeted to announce that she had canceled the visas of the Belarusian men’s basketball team, and stated that “The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
I have cancelled the visas of the Belarusian Men’s Basketball Team who were due to play in Newcastle tomorrow night.
The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of #Ukraine.
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) February 26, 2022
It is unknown how this policy will affect individual athletes, and has raised concerns over the main event of UFC London, with Russian heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov set to travel to the UK to face England’s Tom Aspinall in the March 19 headliner at The O2 Arena.
With the situation constantly evolving, UFC president Dana White has admitted that he is unsure whether Volkov will be able to fulfill his main event booking. Such was the concern, White revealed to TSN that the UFC had attempted to encourage Volkov to make his trip over to England earlier to avoid potential issues, but the heavyweight contender opted to stick to his original schedule.
“We’re trying to get him into England sooner so he can be there and be ready to fight,” White explained.
“When things like this start blowing up, we start looking at potential problems and what possibilities are, and we try to get around them.
“We try to figure out, ‘If that’s going to happen, let’s get these guys into England earlier.’ And I know that we’ve been trying to get Volkov to leave Russia, and he hasn’t wanted to.”
Volkov’s manager, Ivan Bannikov, told Sherdog that Volkov had already received his visa to travel to the UK, but said that the status of his flight into London is unclear.
“The visa has been issued,” he said.
“All will depend on any new sanctions. But at this moment, this is all unimportant, as our thoughts are of the people dying in Ukraine, on both sides. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”