UFC 261, which is scheduled for Saturday night, is the first major sporting event to have a crowd size at full capacity in over a year as the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions begin to fade away. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared by UFC president Dana White at a press conference.
“What’s up everybody, UFC president Dana White here. And I have been waiting a year for this day, to tell you – we are back!” announced UFC President Dana White in a video on Twitter. The press conference also featured other high prominent figures, including Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, UFC President Dana White, and Florida’s Jorge Masvidal, who is fighting in the event and is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.
— danawhite (@danawhite) March 16, 2021
The move comes as the UFC continues to market to conservatives, especially as nearly every other major sporting league sprints to the left on major social and political issues, such as vocal support for gay marriage and the violent Black Lives Matter movement. Dana White spoke at the RNC in 2020, UFC fighters spoke at Trump campaign rallies, and President Trump has even attended UFC events in recent months.
The move seems to be a strategic one for DeSantis as well, as he increasingly appears to be positioning himself as a contender for President in 2024, and has gained national recognition for his refusal to force his state to engage in economically devastating and scientifically baseless lockdowns or vaccine passports.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 22, 2021
“UFC was the first sport back with live competition anywhere in the country. But we didn’t have the big fans for it yet. I told Dana, ‘listen when you guys are ready to come, Florida needs to be the first place for a UFC (event) with all the fans,'” DeSantis explained at the presser. He then praised White for his courage, saying “Dana White goes right into the teeth of (criticism). He stands up for what’s right, he doesn’t back down, he holds the line.”
The event is set to air Saturday night at 10 pm ET, and can be viewed on pay-per-view.