Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President, Dana White, has made a career out of steamrolling the people who need him. Fighters need his favor to compete for UFC — widely recognized as the top of the combat sports food chain — and media members not working for broadcast partner ESPN need his blessing to obtain a press pass.
But like former lightweight champion Conor McGregor once said, there are levels to this game, which explains why White, who once dared the media to bet against him in the race to stage UFC 249, was instead forced to cancel the event after getting a call from the kind of people who don’t take “no” for an answer.
California Governor Gavin Newsom rang the top suits at Disney, parent company of ESPN, and expressed his concerns about UFC using tribal grounds, specifically Tachi Palace Resort & Casino in Lemoore, to circumvent state and federal restrictions in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has most of the world on lockdown.
That’s according to The New York Times.
It also didn’t help that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for the postponement of the event earlier in the day, chastising UFC for “flouting” shelter-in-place orders and tying up medical resources that could otherwise be used for infected patients. In addition, Feinstein argued that participants risked exposure at UFC 249 both for themselves and for their communities upon returning home.
“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249,” the network wrote in a statement to The New York Times. “Nobody wants to see sports return more than we do, but we didn’t feel this was the right time for a variety of reasons. ESPN expressed its concerns to the UFC and they understood.”
UFC 249 was originally booked for April 18 inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but the venue was shut down as part of the state’s efforts to “flatten the curve.” No word yet on when the promotion will return to action but White promises it to be sooner, rather than later.