THE UFC has announced the full fight lineups for its shows scheduled for May 13 and May 16 as the mixed martial arts promotion moves closer to resuming competition amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The UFC plans to stage several shows without fans at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, this month. The first event is the pay-per-view UFC 249 on May 9.
Many of the bouts announced on Friday (Saturday, Manial time) are matchups initially made for shows that were canceled in recent weeks. The shows on May 13 and May 16 are expected to be broadcast on ESPN Plus.
The nine-bout show on May 13 will be headlined by former light heavyweight title contenders Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira. The matchup originally was scheduled to headline the UFC's show in Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 25.
The May 13 show is co-headlined by Ovince Saint Preux's heavyweight debut against Ben Rothwell. Other matchups on the card include lightweights Alexander Hernandez and Drew Dober, bantamweights Ray Borg and Ricky Simon, and heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Philipe Lins.
The main event of the nine-bout show on May 16 is Dutch heavyweight veteran Alistair Overeem against Walt Harris. They were scheduled to meet in the main event of a show in Portland, Oregon, on April 11.
Harris (13-7) will fight for the first time since his 19-year-old stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, went missing and was later found dead last November in Alabama.
The May 16 show also includes featherweights Edson Barboza and Dan Ige, middleweights Eryk Anders and Krzysztof Jotko, bantamweights Song Yadong and Marlon Vera, and strawweights Claudia Gadelha and Angela Hill.
The UFC hasn't held a show since March 14, when it staged a full fight card in an empty arena in Brazil. The UFC had plans to resume competition at the Tachi Palace casino complex on tribal land in California last month, but ESPN compelled UFC President Dana White to scratch his plans after objections from California state officials.
White has vowed since the start of the worldwide shutdown to be the first major sports organization to resume regular competition.
White still wants to hold 42 events in 2020, matching the number promised to ESPN and the UFC's broadcast partners under the latest rights deals that are a critical source of revenue for the promotion, which was purchased by entertainment conglomerate Endeavor in a heavily leveraged deal in 2016.
The promotion has begun to inform its fighters about the safety protocols that will be in place in Jacksonville.
The UFC says fighters and their cornermen will be subject to daily medical screenings and tests after they arrive at their hotel, and every fighter will be provided with an individual workout room. Only essential personnel will be allowed in the arena on fight night.
UFC 249 will be headlined by lightweight title contenders Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo also will defend his title against former champ Dominick Cruz on a stacked card.
The UFC also is working on a show for May 23 in Jacksonville. Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is expected to fight on the show.