After weeks of relentlessly trying to push forward with the event schedule in the middle of countless obstacles and outside pressures, UFC president Dana White revealed Thursday that all future events – including UFC 249 on April 18 – have been indefinitely suspended.
White made the announcement to UFC broadcast partner ESPN, stating that the decision was made after top-level executives at both Disney and ESPN intervened.
“I told you this whole thing has been a battle since Day 1,” White said in a video interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “We’ve been fighting non-stop all day and all night since this pandemic started to put on this event on April 18. And today we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN. One thing that I’ve said since we started our relationship and partnership with ESPN – and it’s been an incredible one, it’s been an amazing partnership. ESPN has been very, very good to us, and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”
Last month, White made it clear that he “didn’t “give a sh*t about the coronavirus.” One week later on March 14, the UFC held an event behind closed doors in Brasilia, Brazil, even as the rest of the sports world – including the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball – seemingly had shut down. It wasn’t until bans on large gatherings around the nation and global travel restrictions picked up that the UFC postponed three events between March and early April.
Despite that, White insisted UFC 249 would press forward, even after losing its originally anticipated lightweight title headliner between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. An interim title bout between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, as well as a new slate of rescheduled and remade fights, were announced for the card.
UFC 249 was reported to take place at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, Calif., which White confirmed. It was the promotion’s way of bypassing statewide stay-at-home orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom as the casino is located on federally recognized tribal land and exempt from such orders. White said he had booked the venue for two months to consistently host events; he’d also secured a private island for international fights to keep the promotion running.
Although never officially announced, Tachi Palace became well known as the venue for UFC 249. Several sanctioning bodies – including the California State Athletic Commission, which refused to regulate UFC 249 – expressed concern over the situation. White expressed gratitude toward Tachi-Yokut Tribe for its support.
“One thing I need to point out is that Tachi Palace in California, the Indian reservation, has had our back this whole time and has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight,” White said. “Let me tell you this: When the world gets back to normal, the California event will be at Tachi Palace. I’m doing a fight there. I’m going to bring them a big fight, and I appreciate them standing with me in this thing.”