UFC President Dana White on Thursday cancelled UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje as we know it. It will not take place on April 18, as White had tried so hard to make happen.
“I told you this whole thing has been a battle since day one. We’ve been fighting all day and all night since this pandemic started to put on this event on April,” White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
“Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN. One thing I’ve said since we began our relationship and partnership with ESPN that it’s been an incredible one. It’s been an amazing partnership. ESPN has been very, very good to us and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”
In talking with Okamoto, White insisted that the UFC was prepared to move ahead with the event and confirmed that Tachi Palace was indeed the location that he had secured for the event. Despite outside pressures, White was grateful to Tachi Palace and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe for standing by him in trying to make UFC 249 happen on their reservation.
White promised he would hold an event at Tachi Palace, which is not a location the UFC would normally consider, when the dust settles surrounding the pandemic.
“We’re ready to go. And one thing I need to point out that Tachi Palace in California, the Indian Reservation, has had our back the whole time. Has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight. Let me tell you this, when the world gets back to normal, the California event will be at Tachi Palace. I’m doing a fight there. I’m gonna bring them a big fight. I appreciate them standing with me in this thing.”
White also promised that he would take care of his fighters and employees through the COVID-19 crisis, reenforcing his previous statement that no UFC employees would be laid off because of the pandemic.
“One other thing I really want to point out. All of my fighters that are under contract with me, I want them to feel safe. Take time with your families. Enjoy this time. Don’t worry about the financial side of this. You’re going to get the fights on your contract and I’m gonna make things right with the people that were willing to step up and fight next weekend. I’m gonna take care of as many people as I possibly can and do whatever it takes to make these guys feel comfortable,” he stated.
“All of my employees, nobody is getting laid off at the UFC. We will be the first sport back. Fight Island is real. The infrastructure is being built right now. That’s really gonna happen and it will be on ESPN. That’s it. That’s where we stand right now.”
Following the interview, Okamoto tweeted that White told him he fully intends to hold all 42 planned UFC events in 2020.
UFC President Dana White spoke to Brett Okamoto about #UFC249 no longer taking place on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 9, 2020