Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Before Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president, Dana White, could confirm UFC 249’s location — all signs pointed to Tachi Palace Casino Resort In Lemoore, Calif. — the event has been canceled.
ESPN broke the news, revealing that not only is UFC 249 — which was set for April 18, 2020 — postponed indefinitely, so are all of the promotion’s other scheduled events. White spoke to ESPN to explain that the higher-ups at Disney and ESPN ultimately made the call to pull the plug.
“This whole thing has been a battle since day one,” White said. “We have been fighting all day and all night since this pandemic started to put on this event on April 18. Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN.
“One thing that I have said since we started our relationship with ESPN, is that it’s been an incredible one and ESPN has been good to us,” he continued. “The powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”
Furthermore, UFC’s head honcho went on to finally confirm that Tachi Palace Casino Resort was going to host UFC 249, which was set to feature an interim Lightweight title fight between Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. And since everyone at the venue had his back, he will return the favor once everything gets back to normal by bringing a huge fight to the reservation.
“We’re ready to go,” he said. “One thing I wanted to point out is that Tachi Palace in California, the Indian reservation, has had our back this whole time and stood its ground and willing to do this fight. When the world gets back to normal, the California event will be at Tachi Palace. I am going to give them a big fight. I appreciate them standing with me.”
Furthermore, White had a message for all of his fighters and employees, assuring everyone that no one in the company would be losing their jobs and athletes would be taken care of.
“One other thing I want to point out is, all of my fighters that are under contract with me, I want them to feel safe and take time with their families and enjoy this time. Do not worry about the financial part of this,” he said. “You are going to get the fights on your contract and I am going to make things right with the people who were willing to step up and fight next weekend.
“I am going to take care of as many people as I possibly can and do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable,” he continued. “All of my employees, no one is getting laid off at UFC. Everybody is good. We will be the first sport back.”
In conclusion, Dana revealed that “Fight Island” is indeed happening in the near future.
“Fight Island is real, we are building the infrastructure right now and it will happen and it will be on ESPN. So that’s it, that’s where we stand right now.”
Coincidentally enough, the move comes shortly after United States Senator, Dianne Feinstein, who represents California, issued a statement urging UFC to postpone the event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order. This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential.
I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law. However, at best this event ties up medical resources and sends a message that shelter-in-place orders can be flouted. At worst, participants and support staff could carry the virus back to their home communities and increase its spread.
I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date. We have to be responsible and mindful of all local, state and federal public health guidelines. Going ahead with this event is not the right move.”
Keep it tuned to MMAmania.com for more on this developing story.