Full Crowd to Return for UFC 261 in Florida Next Month for Usman vs Masvidal 2

Almost exactly a year on since shutting its doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, UFC announced plans to return in front a capacity crowd next month.

UFC president Dana White confirmed on Monday night that a full crowd of 15,000 fans will be able to attend UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, on April 24.

"I have been waiting a year for this day to tell you: 'We're back'," White said in a video he posted on his Twitter account, adding the event will be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which held three UFC events in May last year.

WE ARE BACK!!!!!!#UFC261 April 24th. Jacksonville, FL. FULL CROWD. pic.twitter.com/5dy7wb4OWE

— danawhite (@danawhite) March 16, 2021

White added the UFC event will feature a "stacked card", including three title fights.

In the headliner, Kamaru Usman will look to defend his UFC welterweight title in a rematch against Jorge Masvidal. Usman defeated Masvidal by unanimous decision at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi last July and improved his career record to 18-1 last month, defeating Gilbert Burns by TKO in the third round to extend his streak of consecutive wins to 13—a UFC welterweight record.

Masvidal, meanwhile, has a 35-14 career record which features wins over Ben Askren, Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz and Darren Till.

UFC President Dana White
UFC President Dana White during a press conference after the UFC Fight Night event at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre on August 31, 2019 in Shenzhen, China. White confirmed on Monday that UFC 261 will be the first event to be held in front of fans for over a year. Zhe Ji/Getty Images

The other two title fights on the card will see women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko looking to defend her title against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, while reigning women's strawweight champion will fight Rose Namajunas.

UFC 261 will be the first event hosted in front of a crowd with no capacity limit since UFC 248 on March 7 last year at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. As the COVID-19 outbreak paused sports across the world, UFC was forced to cancel several events and those that went ahead did so behind closed doors.

UFC 257 in January was an exception, as a limited number of ticketed fans were allowed to attend the event, which was headlined by the bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, in Abu Dhabi.

"Dana White, [Florida Gov.] Ron Desantis and I will continue to demonstrate that Florida is poised to safely host signature sporting events watched globally," Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry tweeted following White's announcement.

"Welcome back to Jacksonville."

DeSantis has been repeatedly outspoken about his desire to hold events in front of crowds in Florida.

Last month, approximately 25,000 fans attended Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, which had operated at limited capacity throughout the NFL season. Elsewhere in Florida, both the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars welcomed limited crowds.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 22.8 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the U.S—the highest tally in the world—according to Johns Hopkins University.

Of those, 1.98 million cases have been reported in Florida, the third-highest number in the U.S. behind California and Texas.

More than 2.66 million fatalities have been recorded worldwide, with over 535,600 of those in the U.S.