UFC President Dana White has been itching to put on a UFC show in front of a full house.
On 24th April, he gets his wish when UFC 261 rolls into Jacksonville, Florida and the promotion is putting on a bumper card to celebrate.
Three title fights are in the offing. Kamaru Usman will look to defend his UFC welterweight crown against Jorge Masvidal for a second time. Valentina Shevchenko will fight Jessica Andrade – a former women’s strawweight champion – with UFC women’s flyweight gold up for grabs. UFC women’s strawweight champion Weili Zhang will take on former champion Rose Namajunas.
The news was announced by White on Monday night.
— danawhite (@danawhite) March 16, 2021
White was looking to Texas for his first fully-open event after Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state. He attempted to move UFC 260 to Texas, but said local governors were against the idea despite buy-in from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the body that acts as the state’s athletic commission.
So White looked to another southern state and, in particular, a city that has treated UFC well in Jacksonville.
In May last year, Jacksonville’s 15,000-seat VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena played host to UFC’s first three shows after the ongoing coronavirus pandemic halted their events.
That same arena will be holding this UFC 261 landmark event for less than a year later.
UFC has had been able to hold events with a limited crowds recently. In the promotion’s latest “Fight Island” run of three events – including UFC 257 featuring Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in the main event – a controlled number of fans, who were tested for COVID-19 beforehand, were able to attend.
At the time of writing, it’s unclear what new safety protocols will be introduced for an event with up to 15,000 people in attendance.