As things stand, he said on Thursday at the press conference for UFC 260, the promotion is doing brisk business as it emerges from its dual cocoons in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi.
“I’m going to go everywhere that they’re willing to sell out,” White said. “Right now, with pre-sale in Jacksonville, [Fla.], we broke the arena record already. So I expect this thing to go on sale tomorrow and sell out in seconds.”
A request for comment to VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena was not immediately returned.
UFC 261 takes place April 24 at VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena and is headlined by a trio of title fights, with a welterweight rematch between champ Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal serving as the main events. The spring fight card marks the return of full capacity UFC shows. One year earlier, the promotion restarted its live events schedule with a trio of events in Jacksonville before moving operations to the UFC APEX, which it owns, and Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
The UFC flirted with limited attendance for UFC 257 in January, but quickly shifted gears after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott removed capacity restrictions on businesses earlier this month. White wanted to move UFC 261 to Dallas or Houston but said he was shot down.
A search of UFC 261 tickets on Ticketmaster revealed a scant few remaining at extreme price points, with the cheapest going for $1,625. Tickets on the secondary market, meanwhile, could be found for as low as $255, though those prices may not hold.
White isn’t sure whether UFC 261 and UFC 262, which is scheduled for May 15 in Houston, will signal a full return to events with live fans. Capacity restrictions are beginning to ease around the country, but health officials have also advised the public not to let its guard down on the coronavirus, which has led to over 546,000 deaths as of this writing.
Still, sporting fans are closer than ever to a return to normal. Officials in New York recently announced arenas could be filled to 10 percent of capacity. California lifted restrictions that could allow fans for Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes to allow between 10 to 25 percent of Dodger’s Stadium to be filled when the season starts. The Texas Rangers announced earlier this month that they will allow 100 percent capacity for an April 5 opener at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
In boxing, meanwhile, just over 9,000 distanced fans watched live at the Alamodome in San Antonio this past October as Gervonta Davis knocked out Leo Santa Cruz.
“Everybody’s talking about, they’re first, they’re first – they’re not first,” White said. “We’re first. Nobody’s going to do it like we’re going to do it.
“They’re talking outdoor arenas, most of them probably won’t sell out, social distancing, all that stuff. We’re selling out an arena, packed, record-breaking, and I’m going to go everywhere that people want to do that.”
According to a recent study by restaurant point-of-sale provider Oracle, a survey of 3,000 people revealed 83 percent are ready to return to stadiums. If demand for live sport is at it appears, the UFC stands to benefit, and handsomely.