Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President, Dana White, recently had to deliver the news that UFC 249 would no longer proceed on April 18, 2020, after ESPN and Disney decided to pull the plug in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a tough blow for White, who worked tirelessly to make “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” happen, going as far as convincing Tachi Palace Casino Resort to open up its doors to stage the pay-per-view (PPV) event. But according to the outspoken promoter, he already had another location lined up as a back up in case Tachi Palace fell through.
And no, it’s not his private island.
“First of all, health and safety is all we care about. It’s number one for UFC and it has been for 20 years, long before the coronavirus popped up,” White told ESPN. “Number two: We figure out solutions, we figure out how to make things work. How to make it safe and how to make it happen. That’s why we are the biggest and the best in the world.
“We pull off things that other people can’t. Everybody said that I couldn’t do this...I can do this,” he continued. “I can go next Saturday. And, if anything ever happened to California where I couldn’t, I have another place right now with an athletic commission and the governor and everybody is behind it. I can go April 18. Let’s make that clear — I don’t crack to pressure.”
While White didn’t reveal his back up location, it’s safe to assume Florida was the safety net, as it was rumored that “The Sunshine State” was originally the favorite to host UFC 249. In addition, Secretary of Department of Business & Professional Regulation, Halsey Beshears, recently Tweeted that Florida would gladly welcome the promotion.
“Why take UFC and go to an island Dana White? Florida is your huckleberry. Florida DBPR will get your fighters licensed and we will make it work," read the Tweet. "Then remember Florida when all the cool kids want to date you again.”
White also went on to reveal that if streaming UFC 249 on ESPN+ was the issue, he was more than willing to have it streamed on Fight Pass. In the end, though, he listened to the powers that be over at the “Worldwide Leader In Sports’” and decided to bow out for the time being.
“I can still go on Saturday and do this event. If ESPN would let me do it on Fight Pass, but ESPN doesn’t want me to do it, they’re my partners, and they’ve been nothing but amazing to me,” he said. “Before this even happened, all you ever heard me talk about was how amazing ESPN is, how smart these guys are, how well everything has been done since we’ve been here. They want me to not go so I won’t go. But I am going to make sure everyone is taken care of, from my fighters and my employees.”
Not only will UFC 249 be put on the shelf for the time being, so will future scheduled events such as UFC Fight Night 173, UFC 250 as well as others, depending on when business can return to normal.
So what that means is that once business resumes, be prepared for a whole lot of UFC, as White is adamant that all the fighters on his roster will get to fulfill all remaining fights on their respective contracts for the remainder of the year.
Of course, everything depends on whether or not the wrath of COVID-19 dies down a bit.