The O2 Arena in London, England was originally scheduled to host UFC Fight Night 171 on March 21, 2020. The welterweight matchup between Leon Edwards and Tyron Woodley was supposed to be the main event.
On March 15, UFC president Dana White disclosed that the event will need to be moved to a new location and that some of the scheduled fights would be changed as a result of the COVID-19 global epidemic that caused a travel ban in the United Kingdom.
In a statement to ESPN MMA, Dana White said:
“Obviously, the fight cannot go on in London, but it will. I have my matchmakers at work assembling the undercard while we search for a new location, probably in the United States.”
Even though the coronavirus spread affected the staging of sporting events all around the world, the UFC vowed not to postpone any matches. Dana White stated that after discussing the implications with then-US President Donald Trump, he was eager to move through with UFC Fight Night 171:
I discussed this with the President and Vice President of the United States, who are taking it seriously and advising me to “stop stressing and be cautious but live your life.”
Dana White informed staff members in a memo dated March 16, 2020, which was later made public, that UFC Fight Night 171 would be postponed. For the first time in the history of the promotion, a number of events had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The UFC later cancelled events scheduled for March 28 and April 11.
White said in a later announcement that any fights that were to be postponed will be rescheduled. It was announced on April 1st that all scheduled combatants will get compensation regardless
Why did Leon Edwards pull out of UFC Fight Night 171?
One of the first to withdraw from UFC Fight Night 171 was Leon Edwards.
On March 21, 2020, Edwards announced via Instagram that he would not be taking on Woodley. Edwards and his squad were unable to take part because they are based in the United Kingdom and the fight was scheduled to be moved to the United States.
Leon Edwards used Instagram to address his followers and explain what transpired at UFC Fight Night 171 that ultimately caused him to withdraw from the contest:
“In order to keep the battle going, we have been collaborating with the UFC on potential options. Unfortunately, nothing was practical with such a small window of time. My team and I are all fathers, spouses, sons, and brothers; we are unable to leave our homes at this time. I sincerely wish we could have found a method for the fans. Since I began playing this sport, I’ve had an ambition to be the main attraction at a UFC event in my native nation. It is heartbreaking that this is being cancelled.”
Leon Edwards’ situation eventually turned out well because he battled Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title and triumphed at UFC 278. Edwards and Usman will square off once more at UFC 286 on March 18, 2023, at the O2 Arena in London, England.