UFC President Dana White has wanted to continue to broadcast MMA fights for the fans, but first and foremost for the fighters. The fighters need to fight to get paid. However, the UFC finally had to stand down at the request of ESPN.
The UFC had to cancel three events due to COVID-19. The events were slated for March 21, 28 and April 11 on ESPN and ESPN+. White was hell-bent on continuing to broadcast UFC 249, which was scheduled for April 18.
UFC 249 was originally supposed to take place April 18 in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center. The pay-per-view was the most anticipated event of the year and possibly of all time as undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) was going to fight No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson (25-3), who is riding a 12-fight win streak, the most in the UFC.
The fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson had been scheduled four times prior to this fight but due to various reasons, the fight was canceled. Add UFC 249 to that list, because the fight was canceled for a fifth time due to Nurmagomedov flying back to his hometown in Dagestan, Russia, and has now chosen to stay due to travel restrictions and quarantine safety.
On April 6, the UFC announced that No. 4 ranked fighter and knockout artist Justin Gaethje would fight Ferguson for an interim lightweight title at UFC 249 in the main event. While it’s not Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, it is still a great fight that can bring a lot of violence as both fighters have been ranked as the most violent in the UFC.
According to The New York Times, “The Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event on tribal land in Central California. The location will be the Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Lemoore, Calif., about 40 miles south of Fresno. The casino, which closed the night of March 20 because of the pandemic, is on land belonging to the Tachi-Yokut Tribe, part of the federally recognized Santa Rosa Indian Community.”
Two days after the Times published that report, White did an interview with ESPN MMA correspondent Brett Okamoto, saying that he got a call from the highest person you can go at Disney asking him to stand down and not put on UFC 249, to which White obliged.
A few hours later it was also revealed by The New York Times that California Governor Gavin Newsom called Disney with concerns about UFC 249, which led to the cancellation of the event.
The UFC’s next pay-per-view event is UFC 250, originally scheduled to take place on May 9 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That event will no longer happen in Brazil but at a location yet to be determined. The speculation is that the PPV will be on a secret private island, to which White has said the arena is already being built by the minute.
Editors Note April 16, 2020: Photo changed to higher resolution image.