UFC 249, the MMA event that was scheduled for April 18 at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort, has been canceled, and all other UFC events have been postponed indefinitely.
UFC President Dana White confirmed the postponement to ESPN on Thursday — just days after insisting he would “continue to pump fights out” even during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Look, I’ve told you this whole thing has been a battle since Day 1. We’ve been fighting nonstop all day and all night since this pandemic started to put on this event on April 18,” White told ESPN, noting the widespread pushback he’s gotten related to the event.
White said that on Thursday, he received a phone call “from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN” asking him to “stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”
White acquiesced, noting the “amazing partnership” that the UFC has had with ESPN, the network that owns the rights to air UFC fights.
White thanked the Tachi Palace — which is located in Lemoore, California, south of Fresno — for its willingness to host the event, and promised that “when the world gets back to normal, the California event will be at Tachi Palace.”
“I’m doing a fight there,” he said. “I’m going to bring them a big fight and I appreciate them standing with me in this thing.”
Like most states in the U.S., California is currently under a stay-at-home order in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. By holding UFC 249 on tribal land, White and the UFC were hoping to skirt those rules, the New York Times pointed out.
White added that he wants athletes “to feel safe” and enjoy time with their families while events are on pause, promising, “You’re gonna get the fights in your contract.”
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“I’m going to take care of as many people as I possibly can and do whatever it takes to make all these guys feel comfortable,” he said. “All of my employees: nobody’s getting laid off at the UFC, everybody’s good.”
Two days after saying he had secured an island on which to host international MMA fights, White reiterated that plans for that are currently underway.
“Fight Island is real, it’s a real thing,” he told ESPN. “The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really gonna happen and it will be on ESPN.”
And though almost all sporting events have been canceled or postponed indefinitely in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, White said that the UFC won’t be gone for long.
“We will be the first sport back,” he added to ESPN.
As of Thursday, there are at least 463,394 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 16,688 deaths related to the virus. Of that number, California has at least 20,088 confirmed cases and 544 related deaths.
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