Despite lock down and social distancing rules, UFC President Dana White insisted that UFC 249 would go on as planned.
But on Thursday, April 9, White announced that the fights were off after Disney and ESPN announced that they would cease promoting the event.
White said via a memo, “I was ready to go on Saturday, but Disney and ESPN asked me to step down. I love and respect my partnership with them so I postponed the event.” White said that he got a call from the highest level at Disney asking him to cancel the event. Reportedly White has a $1.5 billion deal with ESPN to carry the fights.
The event was scheduled for April 18 with ESPN Plus carrying the fights via pay-per-view. White also planned a fight card at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino – a venue on Native land in central California. White had planned to hold the fights in an empty arena at the Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Tachi Yokut Tribe. White told ESPN, “Tachi Palace has had our back this whole time, has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight.”
With a long history of hosting sporting events, the Tachi Yokut Tribe is not subject to U.S. federal orders to shelter-in-place.
However, White has not canceled any further events. He is continuing to construct an octagon and whatever else is required to hold fights on an unidentified private island. White had originally planned to use his “Fight Island” to hold fights involving fighters who cannot get into the United States. White told the Associated Press that “Fight Island” will be operational as soon as possible.
White vows to make UFC the first sport “back” after the pandemic crisis has passed.
Only a few hours prior to the announcement, Rose Namajuanas dropped out of the event after two members of her family have died under Covid-19 related conditions.
White has vowed that none of UFC’s employees will be laid off saying, “everybody is good”.