UFC 249 kicks off with Sam Alvey high-fiving 'fans' in Jacksonville arena

'Smilin' Sam Alvey, left, lived up to his monicker at UFC 249, (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

After multiple delays and relocations, UFC 249 got underway on Saturday against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Smilin” Sam Alvey had jokes to kick off the comeback event.

The 34-year-old light heavyweight was the first fighter introduced at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville and made the most of his spotlight, acknowledging and high-fiving “fans” as he walked to the Octagon.

Of course there were no fans in the stands as the event took place amid coronavirus social-distancing protocols. But that didn’t stop Alvey from living up to his monicker.

Alvey entered the Octagon as a heavy underdog against Ryan Spann. But after escaping a first-round choke hold, he put up a good fight and almost closed Spann out with some heavy blows late in the third round before Spann ultimately secured a split decision on the judges’ scorecards.

Buffer goes big

Alvey wasn’t the only one to make a big entrance on Saturday as ring announcer Bruce Buffer’s jacket threatened to steal the show.

UFC under pressure

UFC is under a tremendous amount of scrutiny with Saturday’s event that’s taking place as the coronavirus continues to take a deadly toll in Florida and the United States. Especially after one fight was canceled when Ronaldo Souza and two of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19 before the fight.

From the producers to the announcers to the fighters, everyone in the building is intent on putting on a good show.

More UFC 249 coverage from Yahoo Sports: