UFC president Dana White announced on Friday the official lineups for UFC Fight Night events on May 13 and May 16 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The two cards are part of the UFC’s effort to resume normal operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down much of the sports world. The plan includes three live events in an eight-day span, beginning with UFC 249 on May 9.
A light heavyweight matchup between former title challengers Anthony Smith (33-14) and Glover Teixeira (30-7) will headline UFC Fight Night on May 13. A heavyweight bout featuring another former title challenger in Alistair Overeem (45-18) and Walt Harris (13-7) will headline the UFC Fight Night on May 16.
Both headliners were originally scheduled for different dates and locations, before the postponements due to COVID-19. Smith was supposed to face Teixeira on April 25 in Smith’s home state of Nebraska, while Overeem and Harris were slated to headline an event on April 11 in Portland, Oregon.
“He’s coming off a win over [Alexander Gustafsson], coming off a win over the dude that broke into his house,” said White regarding Smith. “He’s had a very interesting time off … Great fight, great main event. Two tough, durable guys. Looking forward to that one.”
There are also a number of fighters who are changing weight classes for the upcoming events, including Edson Barboza, who is dropping down to featherweight to fight Dan Ige, and Ovince Saint Preux, who is moving heavyweight to fight Ben Rothwell.
Despite these shifts in division, White maintains he prefers to have fighters stick to their typical weight class, especially during the pandemic.
“Guys who don’t want to cut weight right now, they feel like it’s tough because they can’t have the typical type of camp they would have, with tons of people — a real hard-core training camp — because gyms aren’t really open. I told those guys not to fight now.
“But if you feel that you can train properly, and you feel that you can cut the weight, I prefer to have your fights in the right weight class. Meaning not a catchweight fight.”
White said last month that all three events in May will take place without a live audience.
The UFC has been forced to postpone a total of six events, but it has been adamant it will be the first major sports organization to return — and still hold its entire 42-event schedule in 2020. The UFC is the only MMA organization with concrete plans to hold an event in the near future. Bellator MMA has postponed its schedule through June, and the Professional Fighters League, a tournament-based promotion, suspended its entire 2020 season.
It’s been nearly two months since the last UFC card and White, while enthusiastic about the return of the UFC, said this break in fights has allowed him to focus his time in different places.
“You miss the normal things like fights every weekend. You miss things like dinners, but I’ve spent some really good quality time with my kids and I’ve done things that I didn’t have the opportunity to do when the world was cranking. … I’m ready to get back and put on some fights, but this downtime has been great for us too.”
The fights for the May 13 event:
Light heavyweight main event: Anthony Smith vs. Glover Teixeira
Heavyweight bout: Ben Rothwell vs. Ovince Saint Preux
Lightweight bout: Alexander Hernandez vs. Drew Dober
Bantamweight bout: Ricky Simon vs. Ray Borg
Middleweight bout: Karl Roberson vs. Marvin Vettori
Heavyweight bout: Andrei Arlovski vs. Philipe Lins
Lightweight bout: Michael Johnson vs. Thiago Moises
Women’s bantamweight bout: Sijara Eubanks vs. Sarah Moras
Featherweight bout: Hunter Azure vs. Brian Kelleher
The fights for the May 16 event:
Heavyweight main event: Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris
Women’s strawweight: Claudia Gadelha vs. Angela Hill
Featherweight: Dan Ige vs. Edson Barboza
Middleweight: Eryk Anders vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Featherweight: Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera
Middleweight: Anthony Hernandez vs. Kevin Holland
Featherweight: Mike Davis vs. Giga Chikadze
Women’s flyweight: Cortney Casey vs. Mara Romero Borella
Featherweight: Darren Elkins vs. Nate Landwehr
Heavyweight: Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Don’Tale Mayes