The hammer has inevitably dropped on the UFC’s outrageous plans to run events even during a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
Just days after Dana White announced that UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje and other scheduled events would proceed, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported Thursday afternoon that UFC 249 is off and the promotion’s lineup of bouts have to be shelved indefinitely.
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
White also told Okamoto that ESPN/Disney executives put the kibosh on his plans.
UFC 249, which was supposed to happen April 18, has been canceled.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 9, 2020
Dana White confirms to @bokamotoESPN that he was asked to “stand down” by top Disney/ESPN executives and so he is doing so.
While not confirmed by the promotion themselves, it was widely reported that the UFC would hold its next several events at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, CA. The casino is on tribal land and thus would not be subject to sanctioning by the California State Athletic Commission. Senator Dianne Feinstein had just called for the event to be delayed literally minutes before the news broke.
White also made an outrageous claim that he was close to securing a private island for international fighters who can’t travel to the US,
but that’s presumably off the table. UPDATE: Guess not!
Dana White to @bokamotoESPN: "We will be the first sport back. Fight island is real. It's a real thing. The infrastructure's being built right now, and that's really going to happen. And it will be on ESPN."— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) April 9, 2020
All of these moves have been met with widespread skepticism and criticism of the UFC for skirting shelter-in-place orders and physical distancing guidelines, but White has been adamant for weeks that the show would go on. Evidently, ESPN/Disney decided the show won’t go on, and they’re the ones paying the UFC a lot of money to broadcast content.
We’ll update this story with more details as they’re made available, but we do know that the UFC is not coming back any time soon.