UFC 249: Tony Ferguson likens fighting in empty arena in Jacksonville to Ultimate Fighter experience

UFC 249 fight card isn't full of stars, due to the coronavirus enforced restrictions, but is expected to be a much-watched affair, however not in the arena.

FP Sports May 09, 2020 19:35:15 IST
UFC 249: Tony Ferguson likens fighting in empty arena in Jacksonville to Ultimate Fighter experience

UFC 249 will serve as the first major sporting event to take place since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of global sport nearly two months ago. The bouts scheduled for Saturday night in Jacksonville (Sunday in India) — the main event is set for pay-per-view — are expected to draw a large viewing audience considering the sports craved world has seemingly grown tired of replays and video game events.

UFC 249 Tony Ferguson likens fighting in empty arena in Jacksonville to Ultimate Fighter experience

Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will headline UFC 249 in Florida. Image:Sony

One difference from normal will be the absence of cheering fans in audience. Tony Ferguson (25-3) and fellow lightweight contender Justin Gaethje (21-2) will headline the mixed martial arts card behind closed doors at Veterans Memorial Arena.

"Well when I was in the Ultimate Fighter it was the exact same thing. I mean the only people that we had in the crowd was two sets of bleachers and our coaches. We had a couple of cornermen and we had the commission right there. It is going to be exactly like how I was trained in the Ultimate Fighter when I was a part of Team Lesnar. Nothing is going to change. Nothing has changed and we are going to keep doing the exact same thing," said Ferguson.

Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov initially was slated to fight Ferguson for the lightweight title, but travel restrictions forced Nurmagomedov to be replaced by Gaethje. The winner of the new main event will face Khabib. When that will be remains to be seen with UFC 250 and UFC 251 both postponed. The loser, meanwhile, is expected to face Conor McGregor.

Ferguson and Gaethje will vie for the title of “interim lightweight champion.”

"You never knew how many people were going to be in that arena, in the gym. It didn't matter. You know a duel sometimes no one showed up. So competition is competition. I believe it is going to be much more of an intimate situation as weird as that sounds. The fans are going to get to hear the shots when we land our shots. They are going to hear the breathing. They are going to hear the talking from the coaches. So yes man I think it is — again I am a huge fan of MMA. I can't wait to watch this fight when it is over. Because I know that it cannot disappoint," reckons Gaethje on an empty arena.

UFC is getting back to action after an involuntary eight-week break. The series is holding three shows in eight days in a fan-free arena in Florida. The start hasn't been perfect with Jacaré Souza testing positive on Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall has thus been called off. Souza’s two cornermen also tested as positive, the UFC said in a statement. Despite the setback, UFC 249 will go ahead.

Watch UFC 249 LIVE and Exclusive on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 3 on 10th May from 7.30 am (IST)

(With inputs from AP)

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