Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White railed against a local Nevada newspaper that was critical of an event held in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday night, the first full-capacity event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UFC 261 was held at the 15,000-capacity VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and sold out in minutes after it was announced, with White calling it “one of the fastest sell-outs in UFC history.”
The fights were part of the first major professional sporting event to be held at full capacity since COVID lockdowns and venue closures began last spring. The indoor event did not require social distancing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans were advised that they could attend with or without wearing a mask.
“It’s up to you. It’s your decision,” White said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.
Initially, the event was to be held in the city-state of Singapore, but it was canceled by local authorities due to the coronavirus. White continued to shop around for another venue and finally found one after GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would welcome the event in Florida, which he described as an “oasis of freedom.”
White held UFC 249 and two subsequent UFC Fight Night events in Florida before empty venues last year, so he said he felt obligated to “repay” DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry by holding the first full venue in their state and city, respectively, USA Today’s MMA Junkie reported.
“This is going to be the first full-throttle sporting event since COVID hit, indoor, anywhere in the United States,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s fitting. We wanted to be safe, but there’s a lot of stuff that comes at you from media, from social media, all this stuff. Some people don’t like to handle that. Dana White goes right into the teeth of that.”
“When this whole COVID thing started, I told you we would be first. I told you we would get through this,” White told reporters at the pre-fight press conference last week.
“But to do that, we had to have a place to go. Florida was the leader in getting things open – bringing back sports. These guys have been very good to us and we couldn’t have gotten it done without the state,” he continued.
But an article in the Las Vegas-Review Journal was critical of the event.
“At least 15,000 people are willing to risk permanent damage or death to attend a live sporting event again,” writer Adam Hill began his piece, citing language contained in a disclaimer for fans who wanted to attend the event.
“While it’s standard legalese that people may have to get used to as life starts to return to normalcy, it’s also a stark reminder that as much as everyone wants to speed the process and vaccinations continue to rise, the pandemic is not yet over,” he added.
White ripped the “piece of s**t local newspaper” in an Instagram post.
“Through this entire pandemic we didn’t lay off a single employee, we worked with governmental agencies in Nevada and around the world to put on every event safely, and we chose to bring our biggest fight of the year with Conor McGregor back to town July 10th to help relaunch the city,” he wrote.
“Yet, this is how the Las Vegas Review Journal shows its support for a true local business. Go f**k yourself LVRJ, and don’t bother coming to the fight in July,” he added.
White went on to rail against the inclusion of left-wing politics into professional sports, which increased significantly in most leagues since the death of George Floyd last year, during an appearance on Candace Owens’ new Daily Wire show.
“When you watch sports, you’re tuning in to get away from all the crap that’s going on in your life,” White told Owens during her Friday program. “Whether it’s personal, professional, political, whatever’s going on in the world. That’s your time where you tune in.
“Never once did we talk about COVID, we didn’t talk politics, we didn’t talk about anything negative that was going on. When you come in and you watch two or three hours of our fights, you’re tuning in for fights. You’re coming in to watch a sport. You want to hear all that crap, watch any other channel,” he added.
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