It has been an emotionally trying week for everyone in Las Vegas. UFC president Dana White and his staff are no exception.
Following the tragic shooting that unfolded last Sunday where more than 50 people were killed and over 500 wounded at the Route 91 Music Festival, everyone in the city has been rallying around each other. And that's exactly what White and the UFC are doing, and at least for this week, part of that rallying is going to take the form of UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.
While many people questioned why the UFC decided to move forward with its event when it was in such close proximity to the tragedy, White was steadfast in his belief that there was no other way. It wasn't that the UFC needed to plow ahead for business reasons, but for personal ones.
“What you don't do is you don't back down from cowards. This coward that went up into a room, hiding, killing women, children, and people there dancing, singing, and having fun… you're a coward. You can't bow down to this kind of stuff. You have to take it head on,” White said in an interview with ESPN on Friday.
“Unfortunately, this is the world we live in now. And I don't want to get all political, but everybody is yelling about gun control. When people want to kill people, they figure out ways to do it, whether it's guns, bombs, cars, trucks, stabbing, they figure out how to do it,” he continued.
“We have to continue… the way that they get us every time is it's always about the unthinkable. We need to be aware and just be careful, even when you're out having fun, unfortunately.”
And that means that UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee is going to take place as scheduled. It won't, however, be the same old, same old. White promised this was going to be a different kind of UFC than we've ever seen.
It was unclear what, if anything, the promotion is doing from a production standpoint, but White noted that UFC 216 would host more than 1,500 first responders, such as police officers, firefighters, medical personal, and others. He also mentioned that, as of Friday night, it looked like there would probably be at least 5 or 6 shooting victims also in attendance.
For White, that's what UFC 216 is about. It's not about the number of tickets sold or how many people by the pay-per-view. After all, he doesn't even know what to expect as far as attendance and that sort of thing. While he knows how many tickets have been sold, etc., he doesn't know how many people who were coming in from out of town – which is commonplace for UFC events in Las Vegas – might cancel their plans. According to him, several airlines have said that people who have airline tickets to Las Vegas that don't want to come right now will have their tickets honored at a later date of their choosing.
It's not about numbers, it's about standing up in the face of fear and not letting the cowards win.
“It might just be me and the media here tomorrow and the 1,500 first responders. I don't care. This isn't an event about the gate, about any of that stuff. This is about the families and the victims and Las Vegas and to not bowing down to cowards.”
(Video courtesy of ESPN | Viewing may be limited by broadcast rights restrictions)