After a two month hiatus, the UFC return this weekend with the rescheduled UFC 249, the first of three events in a week at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Headlining the card will be Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje fighting for the interim lightweight title in the main event, and Henry Cejudo’s defence of his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz in the co-main event.
Ahead of the UFC’s return, Gaethje, Ferguson, Cejudo and Cruz all participated in a media call (as transcribed by MMA Junkie), where they discussed how excited they all were to headline UFC 249, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Seriously, I’m going to be real – this is awesome. You can hear this in both of our voices, dude. There’s no f***ing with this. When they have the wars going on and everything else, they only had the Olympics going on. Right now, there’s no Olympics, there’s no Wimbledon, there’s no NBA Draft, there’s no NFL Draft, there’s no f***ing tennis, there’s no soccer, hockey, there’s no baseball. This is what we bring to the table, man, and we’re going to do our best and we’re going to keep sports alive and that’s what we’re going to do.”
“When I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ it was the exact same thing. The only people that we had in the crowd were two sets of bleachers and our coaches. We had a couple of cornermen and we had the commission right there. It’s going to be exactly like how it was when I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ when I fought on Team Lesnar. Nothing is going to change.”
“I’m f***ing proud to be a part of it. There’s a good opportunity to inspire. People need to be inspired right now. They need to not let themselves become depressed [and] emotional because they can’t control what’s going on right now. They need to be inspired in a way, and we have the opportunity.”
“If anything, I really don’t know the difference between quarantine and the COVID-19 quarantine and me and my training camp. I’m a professional. I train each and every day. I do my recovery, and I try to do everything right.”
“I was already training hard, and Jeremy Stephens already had a fight coming up with Calvin Kattar, so I was helping him train for that about two weeks before this card got slated. So I was already training pretty hard with Jeremy, sparring him, just helping him and making sure he had the same workouts he was doing so he wasn’t having to train alone. And that led right into this camp.”
“I think the silence might be the weird part realistically, but if you fight in Japan, there’s a lot of people there, but they don’t make a lot of noise, so it could be like that. Also, when you train in the gym a lot, I don’t have a lot of people in the gym, especially now in the quarantine, when you’re training. We’ve all been having to train with minimal people, 4-6 people max, in the gym so there’s nobody getting contaminated, and it’s been pretty silent in there. So I think it is going to resemble training in the gym.”
“I look at this as a time I can make a huge difference. What’s the value of champion’s belts or an Olympic gold medal when there’s 33 million Americans that just filed for unemployment benefits, they can’t feed their family since mid-March? [Thousands of] Americans died in the United States, there’s no vaccine coming, probably no end in sight. … Realistically it’s to make a difference and stand for everyone who thinks they’re not a champion and let them know that regardless what everybody says, regardless what everyone’s credentials are, none of that really matters if you believe and if you want it and have a greater purpose than yourself.”