UFC is still reeling from the announcement by president Dana White earlier this week that he was indefinitely postponing all fights because of the coronavirus pandemic.
After securing a venue on a Native American reservation for UFC 249, the company became the latest sports entity to go on hiatus with its broadcast partner, ESPN, urging White to hold off. White still plans on holding fights on an undisclosed island in the near future to theoretically help his employees and partners avoid exposure to the pathogen, but that seems a ways away.
In the meantime, fighters who were scheduled to enter the octagon at UFC 249 have begun addressing the postponement as they look to the future.
Lightweight Justin Gaethje, a late addition on the card to fight Tony Ferguson after Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced to pull out, published an Instagram post on Friday praising White's leadership and tried to stay positive.
"I really felt a surge of energy and support as this fight was building up from so many [people] across the world, it was very humbling," Gaethje wrote. "I am thankful to represent Safford, AZ and my great friends and family. I'm going to be working hard to be ready next time the opportunity arises. Let's get through this fight we are all facing right now by having a positive impact on our immediate surroundings (family, neighbor, community) Thank you!! The boss Dana White is someone I am proud to do business with."
Ferguson, for his part, had a much more brash reaction. The main event headliner was talking to Brian Martin of the Orange County Register when news of the postponement broke and was as caught off-guard as the rest of the sport.
"You know what? I'm sure it's for a good reason," Ferguson said. "Let's be real. I gotta keep the faith. I gotta keep this...(expletive...keep this small circle close, bro, and just keep focusing on what we can control, which is our heart rate and our breathing."
Martin noted it took a few moments for Ferguson to gather his thoughts when he informed him of the news. After suggesting a virtual fight against Gaethje in a UFC video game—as NBA, NFL and MLB players have taken to—the lightweight began to shake off the shock and focus on what he can do moving forward.
"The constant is things are always gonna change. The variable is how am I gonna react to it?" Ferguson said. "So we could throw that variable, baby, and we make that the constant. Which is why I'm gonna keep smiling, I'm gonna keep training, and you know what? I'm gonna put on some muscle. Dude, I'm skinny. I'm gonna put on some muscle."