UFC 261 will be attended by 15,000 fans despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The UFC has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus right from the beginning. In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, all major sports leagues across the globe responded by cancelling or postponing events.
The NCAA canceled March Madness, the MLB called off spring training and delayed the season, the PGA Tour canceled events while the MLS, NHL and NBA have suspended their seasons.
Dana White, however, responded by renting an island in Abu Dhabi to host fights, which was named 'Fight Island'.
The UFC was also the first organization to host a major sporting event inside the United States when it returned to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas for UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov. Amidst severe criticism from certain sections of the media, Dana White told Sports Illustrated:
"I wanted to keep right on going. We’ll figure this thing out. If this thing is that deadly, it’s gonna get us no matter where we hide or what we do.”
Fans will not be required to wear masks at UFC 261
In a recent interview, Dana White revealed that he was really excited to leave the UFC Apex. The UFC called the center just a 'bubble' to keep fights from falling off and to appease the media. White told Yahoo! Sports:
"The reality is, we had to create a bubble that would be safe. So first of all, the athletes wouldn’t end up with COVID and have all these fights falling out. But the media was being so crazy about the whole COVID=19 thing, you had to make the media feel safe."
The UFC has drawn criticism once again as White announced that wearing a mask was optional at the upcoming event in Jacksonville, Florida.
“In Jacksonville, everything is opening up again. Even in Vegas, it’s going to be open on June 1st, but 100% open in July. There are still going to be some things that are set in place. We’re still going to have a bubble for the athletes and things like that. But as far as the fans, you can wear a mask or you can not wear a mask. It’s up to you. It’s your decision.”