UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman is expected to rematch Jorge Masvidal at UFC’s April 24th event in front of a capacity crowd at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. UFC President Dana White announced the matchup and venue via Twitter on Monday.
The fight gives Masvidal a second chance to claim the 170-pound belt off Usman. He first challenged for the belt in the summer of 2020, taking the place of Gilbert Burns on a few days notice due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Usman’s first fight against Masvidal was a dominant performance, controlling the UFC veteran for five rounds to defend his belt for the second time.
Usman has picked up another victory since then, stopping Gilbert Burns last month in the third round of their main event bout. Burns has been the welterweight champion since early 2019, where he dethroned former champ Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision.
Masvidal has not competed since losing a title shot last year. The welterweight contender was picking up steam prior to the fight, earning stoppage wins in his last three performances.
The April bout gives Usman the chance to become the first UFC Champion to defend his belt twice in 2021. Only two champions were able to defend their belt more than once last year (Valentina Shevchenko and Israel Adesanya), with a third retaining it more than once in Deiveson Figueiredo.
Up To 15,000 Expected In Jacksonville
The possible attendance of 15,000 in Jacksonville is an amount that some experts would argue is not ideal come April.
With the vaccine being distributed quickly throughout the country, U.S. President Joe Biden expects that small gatherings of people will be allowed during the country’s 4th of July celebrations.
While this is an objective considered “quite reasonable” by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president, he claims the country must remain patient with current protocol to help the process reach that point.
“If you wait just a bit longer to give the vaccine program the chance to increase the protection in the community, then it makes pulling back much less risky,” said Fauci.
Some of the biggest and most widespread gatherings in the U.S. right now are schools, many of which are following protocol including masks and six-foot social distancing. Per Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, a recent study that suggested masked persons can be three feet within each other has prompted a study to see if that can become the norm.
The current plan in the U.S. is for all adults to be eligible for a vaccine by May 1st. 21% of the country has received their first shot currently, with 11% currently being considered fully vaccinated, per the CDC.
UFC will become one of the first sports organizations to hold a full capacity event since the pandemic. Many teams in the NHL and NBA continue to hold events behind closed doors, with some offering a small percentage of attendance at best.
MLB’s Texas Rangers are expected to allow full capacity for their April 5th home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
UFC will be making their return to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The promotion used the venue briefly without live crowds in May as part of their reboot in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UFC 261 Projected To Have Three Title Fights
With the welterweight championship added to the card now, UFC 261 is expected to have three championship fights in the lineup. Here is what has been reported for the show so far.
Bout 8: Kamaru Usman (18-1) vs. Jorge Masivdal (35-14) (UFC Welterweight Championship)
Bout 7: Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) vs. Jessica Andrade (21-8) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
Bout 6: Zhang Weili (21-1) vs. Rose Namajunas (9-4) (UFC Strawweight Championship)
Bout 5: Chris Weidman (15-5) vs. Uriah Hall (16-9) (Middleweight)
Bout 4: Anthony Smith (34-16) vs. Jimmy Crute (12-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Bout 3: Danaa Batgerel (8-2) vs. Kevin Natividad (9-2) (Bantamweight)
Bout 2: Brendan Allen (15-4) vs. Karl Roberson (9-3) (Middleweight)
Bout 1: Mark Striegl (18-3) vs. Johnny Munoz Jr. (10-1) (Bantamweight)