LAS VEGAS – UFC president Dana White is raring to bring the UFC back to Texas in the wake of Gov. Greg Abbot peeling back COVID-19 restrictions to re-open the state.
At a UFC 259 pre-fight news conference Thursday, MMA Junkie lead reporter John Morgan asked White about the likelihood of the UFC pursuing an event in Texas – with an audience.
“Yes, as soon as the governor of Texas said that, I called,” White said. “Dallas said no. I’m working on Houston. We’ll see if we can get Houston done. I want to go to Texas ASAP. I’ll go in the next two, three weeks. I’m ready to roll. We’ll be first. We’ll open this thing up. We’ll sell it out and be on our way.”
While it might have sounded like hyperbole, White reiterated later in the news conference the UFC could move one of its upcoming pay-per-views to Texas – potentially UFC 260 on March 27 or UFC 261 on April 24.
“Could be,” White said, when asked about the events marking the move. “We’ll see what happens. I’m ready to go. I’d move this one if we could. I told everybody when this opened up that I would be first and we would go first – and we will.”
White has long stated he would not host events in front of audiences that were less than 100 percent capacity, though the promotion did allow a limited amount of fans at events during its most recent stint on “Fight Island,” which included the return of Conor McGregor at UFC 257.
Since October, Texas has held combat sports events with 50 percent restricted occupancy and mandated COVID-19 safety protocols in place. However, on Tuesday, Abbott opened the door for such events when he announced he would angle to “open Texas 100 percent.”
The governor also said he would issue an executive order that would repeal most of his earlier orders. His restrictions on business occupancy and the statewide mask mandate would be voided.
Texas is among five states to roll back COVID-19 mandates this week. Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, and Iowa are the other four.
UFC 259 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card streams on ESPN+ on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.