Mixed martial arts league UFC, a subsidiary of Endeavor, has decided to postpone UFC 249, originally scheduled for April 18, after sports cabler ESPN asked the organization not to go forward with its pay-per-view event.
“While the organization was fully prepared to proceed with UFC 249, ESPN has requested the postponement of the event and subsequent bouts until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” announced UFC on Thursday in a brief statement. “UFC looks forward to resuming the full live events schedule as soon as possible.”
ESPN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UFC president Dana White told ESPN said that it had been a “battle since Day 1” that he had been “fighting nonstop, 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 … and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event on Saturday,” White told ESPN in an interview on Thursday.
Most companies hosting live events in April have long since canceled or postponed their plans. There have thus far been 427,460 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14,696 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California had earlier in the day issued a statement calling for the event to be delayed, expressing that she was “concerned” by reports that UFC had intended to hold the fight “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,” said Feinstein. “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.”
White told ESPN that the event had been scheduled to take place at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, Calif. and that the company has “had [UFC’s] back this whole time, has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight.” White said that once live events resumed, he would hold the event at Tachi Palace. He also, in the on-camera interview, assured his fighters that they would get to participate in the fights promised in their contracts.
UFC President Dana White spoke to Brett Okamoto about #UFC249 no longer taking place on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 9, 2020