UFC 249 will not be on-air on April 18 following attempts by UFC president Dana White to advance with the pay-per-view event. Additionally, all other events of the UFC have been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the president of the UFC, Dana White told:
“Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN … and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event [next] Saturday.“
UFC President Dana White spoke to Brett Okamoto about #UFC249 no longer taking place on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 9, 2020
As a Matter of fact, UFC has a broadcasting deal with ESPN and its parent company, Disney.
— UFC News (@UFCNews) April 9, 2020
Similarly, on April 10, 2020, UFC released the statement via their official website, writing:
“While the organization was fully prepared to proceed with UFC 249, ESPN has requested the postponement of the event and subsequent bouts until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. UFC looks forward to resuming the full live events schedule as soon as possible.“
Originally, a lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov was scheduled to take place on 18 April in Brooklyn at UFC 249. Although Khabib was initially involved, he was later removed from the event. The reason was that he would have trouble leaving his native Dagestan and reentering the U.S.
As soon as Khabib was withdrawn from the event, he was replaced by Justin Gaethje. When the pandemic struck, the bout was set for California, until a determined White was forced to look for another venue, saying the fight will take place “somewhere on Earth”.
White told ESPN on Monday he had found a venue in the U.S. to host weekly fight for the next two months. On Thursday, Dana revealed that he was ready to host the event at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California.
The California State Athletic Commission had suspended all fighting sporting activities until May 31. However, the ban did not apply because the Tachi Palace Casino Resort is located on tribal lands.
White took no time to assure the fighters, having a contract with UFC to not to worry about the wages. Additionally, he also confidently claimed that the UFC will be the first sports organization back in business.
After the cancellation of the UFC, White said:
“It’s all good. We’re going to get through this“
“We’ll be the first ones back. Fight Island is coming, all the good stuff. It’s coming, man. We’ll get this thing squared away, get a date from ESPN, and we’ll be back first and we’ll get these fights going that everybody wants to see.“
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