The UFC is finally returning to the English capital on 19th March with the Heavyweight bout between Alexander ‘Drago’ Volkov (34-9) and Tom Aspinall (11-2) headlining the event at the O2 Arena. Fan favourite scouser Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett (17-3) is also fighting on the undercard.
The last UFC event that happened in London was on March 16 2019, when it gathered an attendance of 16,602. This saw Darren Till headlining against Jorge Masvidal and ended in a Masvidal Round Two KO. The demand for the event in London was astronomically high, with the cheapest tickets selling out in under three minutes, and resellers more than doubling the face value price after they sold out.
Due to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Russian and Ukrainian fighters will encounter issues with travel to the UK
However, there is uncertainty over whether UFC Fight Night 204 will go ahead. Due to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Russian and Ukrainian fighters will encounter issues with travel to the UK. UFC President Dana White told Barstool Sport that he is aware of the potential complication and that, “Yeah, you know, it’s obviously going to cause problems. But we’ll figure it out.” The problems have already begun to flood in, with Nathaniel Woods’ (17-5) Ukrainian opponent Liudvik Shoninan (9-2) pulling out of the fight due to travel issues. This forced the UFC to find Wood a new opponent. On one weeks’ notice Vince Morales (11-5) has stepped up to fight ‘The Prospect’.
Travel issues are not the only reasons why a fighter may not take part in the event. The Icelandic Gunnar Nelson (17-5) fighting out of SBG Ireland has also been having issues with his opponent. He was originally scheduled to fight Brazilian Claudio Silva (14-3), who had to pull out due to suffering a training injury which resulted in Takashi Sato (16-4) being his short-notice replacement.
Jai Herbert (11-3) also had a change of opponent with Mike Davis (9-2) pulling out of the fight as he said that “My entire global income will be taxed by U.K. and by the U.S. Then I got to pay management, and I got to pay camp then I got to pay gym, so I am going home with like 5 percent of my purse”. UFC acted quickly and the undefeated prospect Ilia Topuria (11-0) will be making his lightweight division debut against Jai Herbert.
There are still five fighters who are of either Russian or Ukrainian descent fighting on this card who may come across problems travelling to the UK
Unfortunately, this is most likely not the end of the issues with fighters being forced to pull out because of injuries and travel issues. There are still five fighters who are of either Russian or Ukrainian descent fighting on this card who may come across problems travelling to the UK, especially with one of the fighters headlining the card. This raises the question as to whether the event will still go ahead? It is safe to assume that yes, the event will still go ahead as normal with the worst-case scenario being that the card is delayed. It is entirely possible that the Russian and Ukrainian fighters may be forced to pull out of their scheduled bouts.
Alexander Volkov’s manager has said that “Volkov’s visa has been issued, and all will depend on any new sanctions.” On the 26th of February, the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted that “The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine”, meaning that the main event is still in jeopardy. Nevertheless, it is clear that the UFC will be prepared with fighters ready on standby if any complications occur as previously shown within this event and in many, many previous.
It is also important to mention that the UFC has only ever cancelled an entire card four times since 1993 (not counting the five pandemic-inflicted cancellations), with the most recent being UFC 233, Dillashaw versus Cejudo, in January 2019 due to the promotion’s move to the ESPN+ streaming platform.
As it stands, 2022’s UFC London is set to go ahead in what will be a welcome return to the UK for the sport. Providing there is no cancellation, UFC fans are set for an epic night of entertainment.
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