Dana White: Donald Trump Is 'Absolutely Watching What We're Doing' for UFC 249

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, UFC President Dana White speaks at a news conference in New York. UFC 249 has been canceled after ESPN and parent company Disney stopped White's plan to keep fighting amid the coronavirus pandemic. After defiantly vowing for weeks to maintain a regular schedule of fights, White announced the decision to cease competition Thursday, April 9, on ESPN, the UFC's broadcast partner. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

UFC President Dana White believes an important set of eyes will be focused on Saturday's UFC 249 event in Jacksonville, Florida.

In an interview with TMZ Sports, White expressed his belief that United States President Donald Trump will take a keen interest in how UFC fares:

"Absolutely ... His whole philosophy was let's get sports back first, figure out how to do that safely. Then let's start figuring out how do you get people back in the office? How do you get people in cubicles? And, then how do you get kids back in school? So, this is something we've been working on and yes, he's absolutely watching what we're doing this weekend."

Nearly all major sports leagues in the United States and across the world have been shut down since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC 249 will be one of the first big sporting events to take place in the U.S. amid the COVID-19 outbreak, although it will be held without fans in attendance.

The UFC originally tried to hold UFC 249 at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California, on April 18, but White said he postponed the event after ESPN officials told him to "stand down."

It appears as though all systems are go for Saturday's card, though, and White noted that the UFC is taking every precaution necessary to make it happen, including swab tests for COVID-19: "Health and safety is something we worry about every single weekend ... there's gonna be a lot of testing going on here."

Leagues such as the NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons, as has NASCAR, although NASCAR is scheduled to go back to racing this month with no fans in attendance.

If the UFC is able to put on a safe event without fans on hand, much like professional wrestling companies WWE and AEW have been doing for the past couple of months, it could help create a blueprint for other sports moving forward.

The UFC 249 card looks strong on paper, as it will be headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje with the winner eventually going on to face Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Also, Henry Cejudo will defend the UFC bantamweight championship against Dominick Cruz, and Francis Ngannou will face off with Jairzinho Rozenstruik in a heavyweight title eliminator.