UFC Changes Course, Cancels Major Event
UFC President Dana White has insisted that the coronavirus pandemic was not going to stop the organization from hosting events, especially with UFC 249 set to take place on April 18. Reports came out Monday, stating that White and the UFC had found a new location for the event, but things changed over the past 72 hours.
White spoke to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and informed him that UFC 249 has been officially postponed, and all other events are also postponed. There is no timetable for UFC to resume their schedule, and UFC 249 has not been rescheduled at this time.
White and his organization have been facing intense opposition over the last few weeks, and leaders in the health industry have urged him to cancel the event. It took a few phone calls from leaders at Disney and ESPN to get him to finally postpone UFC 249.
The event was scheduled to air on ESPN+ as a pay-per-view event, but the Worldwide Leader in Sports did not feel that the event should take place. The UFC and ESPN have a five-year contract that makes the television network the exclusive provider of UFC events.
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UFC 249 was originally scheduled to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, but White was forced to look for a new location due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the options that White considered was moving the event to the Middle East, but that would have required too much additional work.
White and the UFC struggled to find a location in the United States because states were unwilling to commission the fight.
White was able to secure the Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, Calif., as a site for UFC 249. This site was also set to host the weekly bouts that take place on the UFC schedule.
This site would not require any commissioning from the state of California because it is on tribal land. The Tachi Palace Casino Resort has been closed since mid-March but was willing to work with the UFC for this event.
Even though this event has now been canceled, White has promised to bring a major event to the resort in the near future for their willingness to host during these tough times.
The California State Athletic Commission has canceled all combat and fighting events through the end of May in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. White has stated that all events would take place without fans in attendance, but they were still not willing to commission the fight.
Finding a location for this event was not the only challenge facing White and the rest of his organization. There were 12 fights on the card, including a lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedev and Tony Ferguson.
Murmagomedev was scratched from the main bout after it became clear that he would not be able to leave his home country of Russia. Justin Gaethje was brought in as the fighter to take on Ferguson, but the loss of Nurmagomedev put a huge dent in the event.
Ferguson was the top contender in the lightweight division, and Gaethje was listed as the fourth-best contender. The lightweight belt would not have been on the line in this matchup.
White also noted on Thursday that the UFC is not under any obligation to pay any fighters during this time off. He has been adamant that the UFC will be the first sporting event to resume once the threat of the coronavirus wears off. White has also suggested that he is willing to secure a private island to host events in the near future.