While the NBA and NHL suspended their regular seasons, the NCAA canceled March Madness, Major League Baseball delayed Opening Day and soccer entities around the world scrapped matches, the MMA promoter insisted that UFC 249, the twelve-fight pay-per-view card on ESPN+, was a go.
White had already canceled three events in late March and early April, so he was doing everything he could to make UFC 249, the April 18 event featuring an interim lightweight title bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, happen.
The event was first scheduled at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with Ferguson facing the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov. But Nurmagomedov had trouble getting out of his native Dagestan and gaining entry to the U.S., so he was replaced by Gaethje.
Amid that turmoil, UFC 249 was moved. White at one point said he had secured a private island where fighters having trouble getting into the U.S. could still face off.
Finally, White settled on Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California. Although the California State Athletic Commission had cancelled all combat sporting events through May 31, Tachi Palace is located on tribal lands and so not subject to the CSAC’s jurisdiction.
But the final blow came today, when White revealed that those at “the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN” had called and asked him to relent.
He discussed the particulars in an interview with ESPN, insisting the UFC would be the first major sports entity back in business.
“It’s all good. We’re going to get through this,” White said. “We’ll be the first ones back. Fight Island is coming, all the good stuff…We’ll get this thing squared away, get a date from ESPN, and we’ll be back first.”