UFC 261 To Feature Three Title Fights, Live Fans In Attendance
UFC welcomes back fans at full capacity when it returns to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. on April 24 with a stacked card headlined by three championship bouts. The main event will see a thrilling welterweight championship rematch when Kamaru Usman defends against No. 4 ranked contender Jorge Masvidal. Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko goes for her fifth consecutive title defense against No. 1 ranked contender Jessica Andrade. In a highly anticipated women’s strawweight championship bout, Zhang Weili faces former champion and No. 1 ranked contender Rose Namajunas.
The event will take place Saturday, April 24 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Early prelims will stream on ESPN+ in English and Spanish beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT along with UFC Fight Pass, with ESPN2 joining programming in progress at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. The prelims will continue on ESPN+ and simulcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and the ESPN+ Pay-Per-View main card will kick off at 10 p.m. ET/7p.m. PT.
Tickets will go on sale Friday, March 26 at 10 a.m. ET and are available for purchase at ticketmaster.com. Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person. UFC Fight Club® members will have the opportunity to purchase tickets Wednesday, March 24 at 3 p.m. ET via the website www.ufcfightclub.com. A special Internet ticket pre-sale will be available to UFC newsletter subscribers Thursday, March 25 starting at 10 a.m. ET. To access this presale, users must register for the UFC newsletter through UFC.com.
“I said almost a year ago that we would bring an event back to Jacksonville with fans and I’m pumped that we are bringing a badass card with three title fights for UFC 261 in front of 15,000 fans,” UFC President Dana White said. “I appreciate the support of Governor DeSantis, Mayor Lenny Curry and VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to make this event happen. We are back!”
“UFC rocks. Dana White is the man. And Jacksonville is ready for a great event. Let’s get ‘er done!” Governor Ron DeSantis said.
“In the words of Bruce Buffer, ‘It’s time!’ Time to get back to in-person sporting events and time that the world sees, once again, that there’s no better host city than Jacksonville, Fla.” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. “We are grateful that Dana White and his staff recognize that Jacksonville is home to world-class sports entertainment facilities. I also want to thank Governor DeSantis for his strong leadership throughout the pandemic. Because of his actions, Jacksonville is able to host this signature sporting event that will be viewed worldwide. For the thousands of UFC fans who have been waiting for this moment, we welcome you back to Jacksonville and I will see you ringside next month.”
No. 3 ranked men’s pound-for-pound fighter Usman (18-1, fighting out of Boca Raton, Fla. by way of Auchi, Nigeria) kicked off his 2021 campaign with an impressive TKO win over former teammate Gilbert Burns in February. On top of besting Masvidal in their first encounter last July, Usman has also delivered sensational victories against Colby Covington, Tyron Woodley and Rafael Dos Anjos. Usman now has his sights set on securing his fourth title defense by proving his first win over Masvidal was no fluke.
Masvidal (35-14, fighting out of Miami, Fla.) looks to make good on his second 170-pound title opportunity by delivering another highlight-reel finish. Owner of the fastest KO in UFC history at six seconds over Ben Askren in 2019, he has also delivered spectacular stoppage wins against Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone and Darren Till. Masvidal now aims to even the score with Usman and capture the UFC welterweight championship.
No. 2 women’s pound-for-pound fighter Shevchenko (20-3, fighting out of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) is gunning to continue her dominant title reign against one of her toughest tests to date. Undefeated since moving to flyweight in 2018, she holds memorable stoppage victories against Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Eye and Priscila Cachoeira. Shevchenko now hopes to add another former UFC champion to her resume and prove she is undoubtably the top women’s flyweight in the world.
Former strawweight champion and No. 5 women’s pound-for-pound fighter Andrade (21-8, fighting out of Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) immediately made an impact upon moving to the flyweight division by delivering a vicious TKO win over top contender Katlyn Chookagian in October. She has also earned exciting victories against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Tecia Torres and Claudia Gadelha. Andrade now vies to become only the second female fighter in UFC history to win titles in two separate divisions.
This bout will mark No. 3 women’s pound-for-pound fighter Zhang’s (21-1, fighting out of Beijing, China) first appearance since her 2020 Fight of the Year win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk one year ago. Currently riding a 21-fight win streak, she has also secured notable victories against Tecia Torres, Jessica Aguilar and Danielle Taylor since joining the UFC roster in 2018. Zhang now looks to take out another high-profile former titleholder to continue her run at the top of the strawweight division.
No. 4 women’s pound-for-pound fighter Namajunas (10-4, fighting out of Denver, Colo.) is gunning to become the first ever two-time champion in UFC strawweight history. Originally featured as a cast member on season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, Namajunas has delivered impressive wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk (twice), Michelle Waterson and Paige VanZant. Namajunas now aims to become the first fighter to defeat Zhang in almost eight years to reclaim the 115-pound belt.
Additional bouts on the card include
- No. 9 ranked middleweight contender Uriah Hall (17-9, fighting out of Queens, N.Y.) takes on former champion and No. 11 Chris Weidman (15-5, fighting out of Baldwin, N.Y.) in a rematch more than 10 years in the making
- Former light heavyweight title challenger and No. 6 ranked contender Anthony Smith (34-16, fighting out of Omaha, Neb.) hopes to stop the momentum of No. 13 Jimmy Crute (12-1, fighting out of Bendigo, Victoria, Australia)
- Exciting welterweights Alex Oliveira (22-9-1 2NC, fighting out of Tres Rios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Randy Brown (12-4, fighting out of Queens, N.Y.) collide in a bout guaranteed to deliver action
- Middleweight prospects Karl Roberson (9-3, fighting out of Neptune, N.J.) and Brendan Allen (15-4, fighting out of Milwaukee, Wisc.) meet in a clash on Dana White’s Contender Series contract winners
- Danaa Batgerel (8-2, fighting out of Erdenetsagaan, Sukhbaatar, Mongolia) squares off with Kevin Natividad (9-2, fighting out of Tempe, Ariz.) in an exciting bantamweight bout
- Aoriqileng (18-6, fighting out of Inner Mongolia, China) faces Dana White’s Contender Series signee Jeff Molina (8-2, fighting out of Olathe, Kan.) in a battle of debuting bantamweights
- Johnny Munoz (10-1, fighting out of Norco, Calif.) takes on Jamey Simmons (7-3, fighting out of Milwaukee, Wisc.) in a bantamweight bout
- Kazula Vargas (10-4, fighting out of Mexico City, Mexico) looks to secure his first UFC victory against newcomer Rongzhu (17-3, fighting out of Aba, Sichuan, China) at lightweight
- Dwight Grant (10-3, fighting out of San Jose, Calif.) and Stefan Sekulic (12-3, fighting out of Novi Sad, Serbia) face off in an entertaining welterweight bout
- Na Liang (15-4, fighting out of Heilongjiang, China) makes her UFC debut opposite Ariane Carnelossi (12-2, fighting out of Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil) at strawweight