Kicks, punches and grunts echoed through the empty arena. Coaches, analysts and electronic camera clicks resonated like never in the past. Blood, sweat, inflamed eyelids and face masks signaled the return of UFC, the first major sporting occasion to resume considering that the coronavirus shuttered much of the country for nearly two months.
UFC 249 ushered in a make over for sports, too. One without fans and amidst numerous safety preventative measures.
It was certainly different– 2 fighters adjusted their methods since of what they heard commentators say– and a welcome reprieve for a sports-craved country that went nearly 8 weeks with few live occasions.
” We did this for you, to bring sports back,” fighter Tony Ferguson told fans following his loss in the main event.
5 hours after President Trump congratulated UFC for rebooting the sports world, Justin Gaethje stunned heavily preferred Ferguson (26 -4) in the ending. Gaethje made a TKO in the 5th and final round of the headliner that was deemed an interim light-weight title bout. It basically gives Gaethje (22 -2) the right to combat titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov next. Nurmagomedov was not able to eliminate this weekend since of travel restrictions.
Gaethje flipped over the top of the cage and back in following the biggest success of his career. He then shouted consistently.
” I desire the genuine one,” he said as he threw down the interim belt. “There’s no other fight I want right now.”
The stacked card saw 33- year-old Henry Cejudo, with blood gushing from his forehead and running down his chest, safeguard his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz and then reveal his retirement in the middle of the octagon.
” I actually do desire to walk away, however cash talks,” stated Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in2008 “It gets stagnant. I wish to leave on top.”
The occasion likewise included heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou mauling another challenger, previous NFL defensive end Greg Hardy winning for the sixth time in 8 fights and previous welterweight champ and fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone losing his 4th straight.
Trump got the spotlight early. His taped message was played throughout ESPN’s broadcast of the undercard.
” I wish to praise (UFC President) Dana White and the UFC,” Trump said. “They’re going to have a huge match. We like it. We believe it is essential. Get the sports leagues back. Let’s play. Do the social distancing and whatever else you have to do. We need sports. We desire our sports back.”
UFC 249 was initially set up for April 18 in New York City, however was held off in hopes of assisting slow the spread of COVID-19
The combined martial arts behemoth will hold 3 programs in 8 days in Jacksonville, where state authorities deemed expert sports with a national audience exempt from a stay-at-home order as long as the place is closed to the general public.
The UFC developed a 25- page file to resolve health and security procedures, procedures that resulted in Jacaré Souza screening positive for COVID-19 on Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall was canceled that night. Souza’s two cornermen likewise tested as favorable, the UFC stated.
All three males left the host hotel to self-isolate in other places, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions from another location and supply help with necessary treatments.
The positive results surely increased the concentrate on the event. Every other sport is seeing closely to see how it plays out.
” The entire word is strange today. Whatever’s weird. This event’s strange,” White said. “It’s various. We live in a various world than we did two months earlier. The bottom line is the system worked. What you don’t wish to do is two days after the fight state, ‘Awe, Jacaré evaluated positive.’ So it worked. The system worked that we put in location.
” Without seeming like a jackass, we’re actually proficient at what we do. We’re really, excellent at what we do. We’ll just improve. The longer this goes, the much better the screening technology’s going to get and the quicker it’s going to get. We’re going to prove by next Saturday that professional sports can come back securely.”
White didn’t want to postpone any battles. He attempted to host the occasion on tribal land in California and still wishes to develop a “Battle Island” for future cards.
He opted for Jacksonville for at least a week– without fans and with social-distancing rules in location.
Judges and broadcasters worked from separate tables. Fighters, fitness instructors, referees, judges, UFC staff and even outdoors media needed to go through COVID-19 testing to get in Veterans Memorial Arena.
Many of those in attendance Saturday wore masks and gloves, although several were seemingly exempt from the required. Referees, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, other authorities inside the octagon and the ring girl were unmasked. Play-by-play analyst Joe Rogan, who initially was expected to talk to winners remotely, ended up doing them inside the octagon.
The cage flooring was disinfected in between bouts, and the padded parts of the octagon were cleaned down between rounds.
Without fans, though, sounds that typically would be silenced or entirely hushed filled the desolate arena. Fighters said it impacted their bouts. Hardy and Carla Esparza stated they modified their method after hearing commentators throughout early rounds.
” It’s hard to evaluate without the crowd,” Anthony Pettis stated after beating Cerrone in a wild welterweight fight. “When I land stuff, I hear the crowd and know it was a good one. This time, there was no crowd. I saw his head pop, but there was absolutely nothing behind it, so it’s difficult to tell.”
Also on the card:
— Cejudo (16 -2) caught Cruz (22 -3) with an ideal knee to the face that sent him reeling to the canvas. Cejudo then delivered almost a lots unanswered blows prior to the referee stopped it. Cruz argued it never ever ought to have been called due to the fact that he was working to return on his feet. Cejudo remarkably ended his career a couple of minutes later on, stating he wants to invest more time with his household.
— Ngannou knocked out fellow heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds. Ngannou rushed Rozenstruik and delivered a flurry of blows that left Rozenstruik so woozy he had trouble getting into his slides long after the battle ended. It was Ngannou’s fourth successive success totaling less than 3 minutes in the octagon.
— Calvin Kattar (21 -4) stopped Jeremy Stephens (28-18) in the 2nd round after successive elbow blows, one standing and another on the ground.
— Hardy (6-2) celebrated a consentaneous decision over Yorgan De Castro (6-1) in a heavyweight bout.
— “Showtime” Pettis (23-10) beat Cerrone (36-15) in an unanimous decision. Pettis and Cerrone last fought in2013 Pettis won that a person also. Cerrone has dropped four in a row, including losses to Conor McGregor, Gaethje and Ferguson.
— Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik (59-13 -1) beat Fabricio Werdum (23 -9 -1) in a heavyweight bout featuring a set of 42- year-olds. It was a split decision that included more toe-to-toe blows than ground grappling.
— Carla Esparza (16 -6) edged Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (17 -8) in a split choice. It was Esparza’s 3rd straight triumph in the straw-weight division.
— Vicente Luque (18 -7 -1) won for the seventh time in eight battles when he beat Niko Rate (14 -4) in a bloodbath. The fight was ruled a TKO in the third round after Rate established a nasty cut above his right eye. Luque was ahead on all 3 cards when it was called.
— Featherweight Bryce Mitchell (13 -1) defeated fellow grappler Charles Rosa (12 -4) in a consentaneous choice.
— Spann (18 -5) extended his winning streak to 8 by beating veteran Sam Alvey (33-14) in a split choice.
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