The UFC has postponed its next three events, although president Dana White remains intent on the highly anticipated bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson going ahead next month.
White had been steadfast in his determination to keep the UFC active amid the coronavirus pandemic, but late on Monday conceded that the events scheduled for this weekend, March 28 and April 11 would be suspended.
"It's just impossible," White told ESPN. "We can't do it."
The news followed the White House's recommendation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. A number of other major sports organisations in the Unites States have taken measures to postpone events, including the NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA.
However, White said that UFC 249 on April 18 would still happen, even if he does not have a venue for it.
Undefeated lightweight champion Nurmagomedov is set to finally take on long-time rival Ferguson, the No 1-ranked challenger, with the fight originally scheduled for the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.
It was to be the promotion’s biggest pay-per-view show of the spring. Two of the sport's main attractions, the pair have agreed to go toe-to-toe four times previously, with the fight called off each time.
“We’re postponing the next three events, but Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib April 18 is still on,” White said. "That will still happen.
“We’re hoping that this all clears up by April. This fight is going to happen. No crowd, whatever it takes. Probably not even in the United States, but this fight will happen.”
White had promised UFC would carry on unaffected, although its event in Brazil last Saturday did take place in an empty arena. Its next offering was supposed to be UFC Fight Night 171, which had already been moved from London because of travel restrictions placed upon fighters and staff. It was to be headlined by the welterweight bout between Tyron Woodley and Leon Edwards.
The UFC had planned to hold the March 28 and April 11 events in Las Vegas, but that move was scuppered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s decision to prohibit combat sports shows until March 25 at least.