UFC 249 Headliners Are Excited To Put On A Show For The Fans
The UFC finally returns this weekend. After the coronavirus pandemic hit the world hard, the world of sport was stopped in its tracks but the UFC is ready to give the fans they’ve been missing out of for the last two months. The rescheduled UFC 249 will be the promotion’s first show since UFC Brasilia on March 14th, and is a highly stacked card from top to bottom.
With the event being hosted by the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, UFC fighters are excited to add a piece of history to this significant stadium in Jacksonville. They are proud to represent their countries, their teams, and all UFC fans around the world during this time.
During a media conference call last Tuesday (as transcribed by MMA Junkie), both main eventers stated that they were honoured to headline the card, and be the first to lead the way and animate the sporting world.
“Seriously, I’m going to be real – this is awesome,” Tony Ferguson said. “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.”
Facing Ferguson in the main event, will be Justin Gaethje. On the line will be the UFC interim lightweight title. And ‘The Highlight’ is excited for the fans and glad to be able to provide an immeasurable buzz for everyone that is invested in the sport.
“I’m f***ing proud to be a part of it,” Gaethje said. “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.”
Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo was expected to defend his title against Jose Aldo at UFC 250 in Brazil on May 9th. However, since the spread of the coronavirus had occurred, the UFC had to undergo a several changes, including bringing Dominick Cruz in as a replacement for Aldo, to fight for the belt once again.
Even during the quarantine lifestyle, professional fighters are geared to train in unfamiliar conditions. Without having that drive to keep pushing forward, they cannot truly become the greatest they can be.
“If anything, I really don’t know the difference between quarantine and the COVID-19 quarantine and me and my training camp,” Cejudo said. “I’m a professional. I train each and every day. I do my recovery, and I try to do everything right.”
Cruz, who lost the UFC 135lbs belt to Cody Garbrandt back in December 2016, makes his long awaited return to the Octagon. Truthfully, he had already been training teammate Jeremy Stephens for his featherweight bout against Calvin Kattar on the card.
“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,” Cruz said. “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.”
A lot of fans wonder whether the fighters will perform to the same magnitude in a silenced arena. However, when it comes to adversity, Cruz believes it is all a result of what you plant in your mind. And we’ve seen Dominick comeback time and time again from injuries, and put on spectacular performances.
“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,” Cruz said. “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.”
Ferguson who was victorious during The Ultimate Fighter Season 13, sees similarities between UFC 249 and his old days of fighting in TUF.
“When I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ it was the exact same thing,” he said. “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.”
While many MMA fans will be in heaven come fight night, there have been critics saying that the UFC is returning too soon. Cruz however, is concentrating on the positives and believes this is an opportunity to send out a message of deviance.
“I look at this as a time I can make a huge difference,” Cruz said. “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.”
Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje and Henry Cejudo vs Dominick Cruz go down this weekend at UFC 249. Will you be watching?