After more than a year of coronavirus-induced capacity restrictions, the UFC is set to finally return in front of a full crowd next month and the card is looking absolutely stacked, with three championship title fights.
Last night Dana White announced in a video that UFC 261 will arrive in Jacksonville, Florida on April 28 in front of 15,000 fans at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, and the 51-year-old has gone all out to ensure that it returns with a bang.
"I have been waiting a year for this day to tell you: We are back," White said on Twitter.
Headlining the show sees Kamaru Usman defend his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal in a mouthwatering rematch of their encounter in Abu Dhabi last July. Usman, 33, defeated Masvidal by unanimous decision at UFC 251 but with Masvidal having come into that fight on just six day’s notice, after Usman’s initial opponent on the card tested positive for COVID-19, it has set up a thrilling return contest.
Masvidal, a Florida native, had a three-fight winning streak halted by Usman last year but the 36-year-old remains one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster and has stoppage wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, Darren Till and Ben Askren on his CV. The Askren fight ended in a five-second knockout, the quickest finish in UFC history.
Elsewhere, the co-main event will feature a women’s Flyweight title fight between champion Valentina Shevchenko, whose two defeats have come at the hands of the great Amanda Nunes, and Brazil’s Jessica Andrade. The two are ranked number two and number five in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings, respectively. The blockbuster card, if we weren’t being spoiled enough already, will also feature a third title fight when Weili Zhang defends her women’s Strawweight title against former division champion, Rose Namajunas.
The last UFC event to take place in front of a crowd with no capacity limit was UFC 248 on March 7, 2020, which saw Israel Adesanya defeat Yoel Romero. UFC 257 in January, meanwhile, headlined by Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, was held in front of a select number of ticketed fans.
UFC 261 will be the second time in just over a month that White and the UFC have put on three championship title fights in one night, following the success of UFC 259 earlier this month.