The UFC has postponed its next three scheduled events through April 11, finally giving up on president Dana White’s plan to keep fighting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The UFC will not hold its show scheduled for Saturday, which was initially slated to be held in a full arena in London. The UFC also won't hold shows scheduled for March 28 and April 11.
“It's just impossible,” White said on ESPN, the UFC's broadcast partner. “We can't do it.”
White insists he will hold UFC 249 on April 18, although he doesn’t have a venue for it. Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson in the promotion’s biggest pay-per-view show of the spring.
“We’re hoping that this all clears up by April,” White said. “This fight is going to happen. No crowd, whatever it takes. Probably not even in the United States, but this fight will happen.”
WrestleMania on — but on closed set
The WWE’s annual wrestling extravaganza -- often called the Super Bowl of wrestling -- will not be held at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium. WWE, however, said it will still hold its scheduled April 5 card on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Fla.
WWE ran an empty arena edition of “Smackdown” last Friday and was set to run Monday’s “RAW” from the performance center.
Brock Lesnar is set to defend the WWE championship against Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania, which will be broadcast live on the WWE Network.
It has been held annually in football stadiums in 2007 and usually draws some of the biggest crowds of the year for any sports entertainment event.
Olympic flame to be lit
The Olympic flame handover ceremony for the Tokyo Games will take place Thursday without spectators in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the Greek Olympic committee said.
The committee said the accreditation cards that had been issued for the ceremony at the stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 would not be valid. The body’s headquarters will also remain closed from Monday until further notice.
The committee canceled the remainder of the Olympic torch relay last week after crowds gathered in southern Greece to watch part of the torch relay in Sparta, where the torch was carried by actor Gerard Butler.
Greece currently has 331 confirmed cases and four deaths.
NASCAR, WTA suspend seasons
NASCAR has suspended its season until May as part of the CDC’s recommendation to postpone gatherings for the next eight weeks. The decision came after at least two Monday conference calls between the sanctioning body and its team owners. It affects seven total races — Atlanta and Homestead had already been postponed.
“The health and safety of our fans, industry and the communities in which we race is our most important priority," NASCAR said.
The series plans to return to the track at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on May 9.
“We intend to hold all 36 races this season, with future rescheduling soon to be determined as we continue to monitor this situation closely with public health officials and medical experts,” NASCAR said. "What is important now transcends the world of sports and our focus is on everyone’s safety and well-being as we navigate this challenging time together.”
Meanwhile, the Women’s Tennis Association announced that it will suspend all tournaments through May 2. The decision wipes out a significant portion of the clay-court season in the run-up to the French Open, raising questions about whether the second major of 2020 will be held.
The WTA’s action added three major European clay-court events — in Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague — to the list of tournaments previously canceled.
In a statement, the tour said a decision would follow within a week about the rest of the WTA European clay-court events.
The men’s ATP Tour announced March 12 that it would suspend play through April 26, which is four weeks before the French Open is scheduled to start in Paris.
Kentucky Derby decision expected Tuesday
Churchill Downs said in a statement that it will make an announcement Tuesday at 9 a.m. “regarding the timing” of this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Media outlets on Monday evening reported that the Kentucky Derby would be moved to Sept. 5.
The race has been held every year since 1875 but has been held outside the month of May only twice. In 1945, the race was held June 9 after a federal ban on horse racing during World War II was lifted.
The Kentucky Derby and its associated events attract hundreds of thousands of people to Louisville, with last year’s race drawing more than 150,000 at Churchill Downs. But amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, which would cover the May 2 race date.
Trainer Bob Baffert told Horse Racing Nation to expect a later date for this year’s race.
"Churchill is saying they're not going to run the Derby without the people there," he said, "so I'm hearing maybe June or in September."
In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan decreed that the state’s horse racing tracks and casinos be “closed to the general public,” though racing continued Sunday at Laurel Park. The shutdown could affect the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, which is scheduled to run May 16. Moving the date of the Preakness outside the month of May could be a challenge, considering that the Maryland Racing Commission only has approved racing at Pimlico for May 7-25 this year. Under a Maryland law passed in 1987, the Preakness can be moved away from Pimlico “only as a result of a disaster or emergency.”