Report: Governor Of California Called For UFC 249 To Be Postponed
Following weeks of planning and maneuvering around the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, Dana White was ready to go on with UFC 249. Settling with Tachi Palace, a Native American casino in Lemoore, California, Dana and the UFC were just a week away from one of the biggest events in company history. Everything came crashing down once UFC 249 and other upcoming UFC events were postponed.
The reveal of Tachi Palace came after the the Nevada, New York and even California Athletic Commission’s all ended up barring combat sports from taking place. The last one is key in this situation. White explained to Brett Okamoto the reasoning for the shutdown of the event on April 18th:
“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 on Saturday,” White said.
It appears it goes further than that. According to a report by the New York Times, California Governor Gavin Newsom directly called Disney officials. He had concerns the UFC were not abiding by social distancing or was about to hold an event when all major sports halted action in the wake of the virus. Back in 2018, ESPN and the UFC came to a five-year, $1.5 billion deal to show over 30 events annually on ESPN+. Disney (more specifically Disney Streaming Services) owns the streaming rights to ESPN+.
ESPN ended up releasing a statement on the matter:
“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249,” ESPN officials stated, via MMA Fighting. “Nobody wants to see sports return more than we do, but we didn’t feel this was the right time for a variety of reasons.
“ESPN expressed its concerns to the UFC and they understood.”
The news of Newsom’s direct request comes after the Association Of Ringside Physicians called for all combat sports to be postponed within the California area. An hour before UFC 249 was postponed, U.S. Senator of California Diane Feinstein sent out a notice condemning the idea of the event.
As the week started, the UFC already lost part of its main event, as UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov backed out of UFC 249 to quarantine. His fight with Tony Ferguson was postponed again. Dana put Justin Gaethje in the main event spot. The UFC then lost Rose Namajunas after it was revealed that two members of her family died from the virus.
Although the event was cancelled, Dana was adamant (as he was with having UFC 249) that the UFC would be the first sport to return to action when the dust clears. His idea of “Fight Island”, a private island for fights, is still on the table.
“Fight island is real — it’s a real thing,” White went on to say. “The infrastructure is being built right now.”