UFC forced to back down
UFC 249 will not be going ahead on April 18 despite the best efforts of UFC president Dana White. All future UFC events have also been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to White, the decision to pull UFC 249 was down to ESPN and its parent company Disney. Confirming the news, White said: “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 [next] Saturday.”
we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN
The plan was for UFC 249 to be televised on ESPN+ through the company’s five-year contract with the network. Despite ESPN not wanting to proceed with the UFC 249 broadcast, White said that the two parties still have a good relationship and look forward to working together again when the pandemic ends.
White’s big plans torn apart
It was on Monday that White spoke to ESPN to tell them he had a location for the event to take place in the United States. On Thursday, he confirmed it was the Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Central California.
Despite this cancellation, White plans to bring a large fight to the casino at a future date. Speaking about the casino, he said that it “has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight. And let me tell you this: When the world gets back to normal, California, that [fight] will be at Tachi Palace.”
ESPN released its own statement on the matter. It spoke about how the network wants live sports action to return to television as soon as possible. However, ESPN did not believe that it was the right time for this return due to a number of unspecified reasons.
Going above and beyond
White maintained that he will be ready to host an event whenever ESPN is ready. He had been lining up multiple workarounds to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to make sure that UFC 249 went ahead.
Before the official cancellation of UFC 249, state officials had expressed concerns about the event going ahead. They believed that it was too risky and could further spread the virus and undermine the state’s executive order.
Fighters will be looked after
The UFC had already canceled three fight nights in March and April as a result of the pandemic. While there is no legal obligation on the UFC to pay its fighters during this ongoing pandemic, White said that the organization would take care of as many of them as possible.
Despite this setback, White still plans to be the first sports organization to be back up and running when the pandemic eventually dies down.