UFC president Dana White vowed that he would not allow the UFC to host fans at limited capacity for events during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the crowd would only return when events could be held at full capacity. On Monday night, White formally announced that the UFC was "back," revealing that UFC 261 would take place on Saturday, April 24 from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with spectators allowed into the arena at full capacity.
White's announcement on Twitter also broke the news that Kamaru Usman would defend his welterweight championship on the card, battling Jorge Masvidal in a rematch of their July 2020 clash at UFC 251. The first fight saw Masvidal step in on six days' notice to try to win the title after Gilbert Burns was pulled from the card after testing positive for COVID-19.
Usman easily won the fight, completely nullifying the explosive offense of Masvidal with a grappling-heavy attack.
Also confirmed for the card by White was Valentina Shevchenko defending her women's flyweight title against Jessica Andrade, while Weili Zhang will defend the women's strawweight title against former champion Rose Namajunas.
VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena held the first three UFC events after the pandemic caused the promotion to cancel several cards. Three events, including UFC 249, were held at the arena with no fans in attendance. That allowed the UFC to continue moving forward while waiting for Nevada to allow empty arena events at the UFC Apex, which has become the promotion's home during the pandemic. Eventually, the UFC was able to secure a second home on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
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UFC 261 will be the first event with full fan capacity since UFC 248 on March 7, 2020.