It appears that some things are bigger than sports. ESPN’s Brett Okamato has confirmed that UFC 249, set to take place on April 18, has been cancelled. All events following the previously scheduled card have also been postponed.
BREAKING: UFC 249 has been canceled. All UFC events postponed indefinitely, due to COVID-19. Dana White says he was ready to promote the event but things were taken out of his control. Much, much more on this to come.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 9, 2020
In an interview with ESPN, Dana White stated that he was asked to stand down by those at ESPN and Disney, who have a working partnership with the UFC.
“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.
Additionally, the UFC sent out a release on social media, stating:
“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.”
UFC President Dana White spoke to Brett Okamoto about #UFC249 no longer taking place on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 9, 2020
It has been a strange journey for Dana White and UFC 249. As the coronavirus continued to affect the world, with various sporting entities cancelling events, Dana was adamant that UFC 249 would go on as planned. Set to take place inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the UFC was ready to have events in New York or in the APEX Center in Las Vegas. Then, the Nevada, New York and California Athletic Commission’s all ended up barring combat sports from taking place.
Due to the lack of location for the event, UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov backed out of UFC 249 to quarantine. His fight with Tony Ferguson was postponed again. Resilient until the bitter end, Dana put Justin Gaethje in the main event spot. He eventually stated that UFC 249 would take place in an undisclosed location (Tachi Palace, a Native American casino in Lemoore, California), while also trying to host events on a private island.
Earlier today, The Association of Boxing Commission and Combative Sports proclaimed that UFC 249 will be a sanctioned event. This came after the Association Of Ringside Physicians called for all combat sports to be postponed. It appeared everything would be going according to plan. Right before UFC 249 was cancelled, U.S. Senator of California Diane Feinstein sent out a notice condemning the idea of the event.
“I’m concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order,” Feinstein stated. “This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential.
“I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law. However, at best this event ties up medical resources and sends a message that shelter-in-place orders can be flouted. At worst, participants and support staff could carry the virus back to their home communities and increase its spread.
“I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date. We have to be responsible and mindful of all local, state and federal public health guidelines. Going ahead with this event is not the right move.”
Do to the coronavirus, the UFC had to move around several events. Three were already cancelled as a result. UFC 249 was supposed to feature several matches from postponed events, including Francis Ngannou v. Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The co-main event was supposed to be Rose Namajunas v. Jessica Andrade in a rematch. Namajunas backed out after it was revealed that two members of her family died from the virus.
Like most sports, it is unknown when the UFC will return to action. Stay tuned as more information is sure to be revealed regarding UFC 249 and events in general.