Crowds are returning to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. President Dana White announced on Monday evening that UFC 261 will feature a high-profile matchup between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. He then confirmed that the event will take place in Florida with a full-capacity crowd.
White released a video on Twitter and dropped his big news. He laid out the stacked card that will feature three title fights while footage of a screaming crowd played. "I have been waiting a year for this day to tell you we are back," White said in his video. "UFC 261 on April 24th will be in Jacksonville, Florida with a full house of fans. Full capacity at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. And you know I'm bringing an incredible card."
White continued and said that the welterweight championship will be on the line as Usman and Masvidal meet for the second time. Valentina Shevchenko will face off with Jéssica Andrade for the women's flyweight championship. Finally, the co-main event will feature a highly-anticipated strawweight championship fight between Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are back," White added. "UFC 261 on April 24th. Jacksonville, Florida. Three title fights, 15,000 fans. And I just want to say, 'Thank you, Jacksonville. I love you guys. We will see you soon.'"
The move to Florida for the full-capacity crowd follows a decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis. He lifted stadium restrictions in October and paved the way for full crowds at NFL games, including Super Bowl LV. However, the league continued to host limited-capacity crowds for the remainder of the football season.
According to MMA Fighting, White previously teased a trip to Texas for UFC 260 when Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back pandemic restrictions on capacity. The state's athletic commission was willing to regulate the event with the full crowd, but local governors pushed back. White ultimately decided to keep UFC 260 out of Texas and instead head to Florida.
Masvidal and Usman previously faced off during UFC 251 on Fight Island. UFC removed Gilbert Burns from the title card after he tested positive for COVID-19, so Masvidal stepped in on short notice to challenge for the welterweight title. Usman controlled the fight with his takedowns and wrestling ability, ultimately securing the belt and heading home from Fight Island as a champion. Though the bout created expectations about a potential rematch.