After what has nearly been a two-month hiatus, the UFC is set to return to our screens this Saturday, May 9, when Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje headline UFC 249 on ESPN+.
UFC 249 was initially scheduled to take place on April 18 with a highly-anticipated bout featuring lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, but travel bans stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Nurmagomedov being unable to compete.
With most other major sporting organizations on the sidelines, for now, the UFC will return to action this Saturday with a new-look main event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, in Jacksonville, Florida.
The controversial pay-per-view event will stream exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States at the regular price of $64.99 for current subscribers or $84.98 as a bundle option for new subscribers.
It’s been just eight weeks, but the UFC returns to an entirely different landscape.
Social distancing guidelines have led to the temporary closure of bars where fight fans would typically watch UFC PPV events.
Lifestyle changes amid the pandemic maybe also lead to fewer friends and family gathering to watch fights together while the coronavirus continues to spread.
In some ways, these impacts could lead to an increase in UFC PPV purchases as individuals seek to watch the action unfold from the safety of their own homes.
But the ultimate test will be whether the typical UFC fight fan will be as willing to part with their money as they have done so before.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that close to 30.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last six weeks alone. Consumer spending figures released on April 30 were also revealed to be down -7.5 percent in March 2020.
Weakening consumer spending is just one of the reasons why boxing promoter Bob Arum recently called for a reduction in boxing PPV price.
“In the United States, where we charge 80 or more dollars for a pay-per-view, people can’t afford that unless they’re gonna have big crowds in the house, chipping in,” Arum said.
“Forget about $80 a home. That is not realistic, particularly now, when we open up. Let’s say we can do a big event, people will be reluctant to open their homes to eight or nine or 10 other couples.”
However, as we head into UFC 249 this weekend, Dana White has a different opinion.
“You’re sitting at home, you have nothing to do… So I don’t want to hear any bullshit about this card isn’t stacked enough — there’s no excuse,” White said.
If you don't have the money for the PPV, then you've already got 3.5 hours of great fights anyway. pic.twitter.com/nLXRVwylJJ
— Jed I. Goodman (@jedigoodman) April 26, 2020
“I understand that times are tough right now for people and everybody doesn’t have the money, but you’re going to get three and a half hours of prelims — incredible fucking fights from top to bottom — and if you don’t have the money for the PPV, then you already got three and half hours of great fights anyway, and the people who do can buy the PPV.”
UFC action returns this Saturday.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.