No sports entity has been more defiant about continuing to hold events despite the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic than the UFC — well, unless you count WWE. Dana White has been insistent on UFC 249 still taking place on April 18, despite stay-at-home orders in most states currently lasting through April 30.
The plan was to have the event, headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje, at a casino on native land in central California, where UFC 250 also would take place with a main event featuring Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz. However, with just over a week out from the fight, Dana White and UFC have apparently been forced to cancel UFC 249 and postpone all future events, per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, who cites White indicating things were taken out of his control.
BREAKING: UFC 249 has been canceled. All UFC events postponed indefinitely, due to COVID-19. Dana White says he was ready to promote the event but things were taken out of his control. Much, much more on this to come.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 9, 2020
According to Ariel Helwani, ESPN was not willing to put on the production of the events and put its staff in that situation, and due to their TV contract, UFC had no option but to postpone.
UFC 249, which was supposed to happen April 18, has been canceled.
Dana White confirms to @bokamotoESPN that he was asked to “stand down” by top Disney/ESPN executives and so he is doing so.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 9, 2020
It is, ultimately, the right decision for the safety of all involved and may save UFC from a self-induced disaster should there have ended up being a fighter that competed and then later tested positive. Now, there will not be any fights happening in the near future, as UFC now finds itself dealing with the same uncertainty about when it can return as every other league and entity.