By Brian Hinchion, Staff Reporter
UFC 249 was set to take place April 18. Astute observers will highlight the key word of the previous sentence, was. The UFC, along with basically all the other major sporting leagues around the globe, suspended or cancelled all upcoming events due to the ongoing global pandemic.
The one difference being, the other sports leagues do not have Dana White as their president. White was adamant about bringing entertainment back to sports fans around the globe while talking to ESPN in March.
“We’re trying to build the baddest card that’s ever been done in the history of the sport,” White said.
But White’s resolute determination was dashed by the head of Disney (ESPN’s parent company) and even politicians including California senator Dianne Feinstein who stepped in to voice their opposition to the event taking place.
“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,” Feinstein said in a publicly released statement.
UFC 249 was called off but a number of noteworthy things came out of the build-up to the cancelled event.
Firstly this event was set to finally have the bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson take place. The two fighters had four other bouts scheduled to take place in the past, but ll of them called off due to injury, or extreme weight cuts dating back to as far as August of 2015. Now, their bout was called off as Nurmagomedov returned to his native hometown in Russia due to the coronavirus locking down daily life in the United States where he was training. This left him unable to travel due to flight restrictions implemented worldwide. Incredibly this is the fifth time this bout has been called off.
The location of the event was also a rapidly unfolding puzzle with each passing day.
Originally UFC 249 was set to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York but with the state implementing social distancing restrictions as well as the New York State Athletic Commision following suit with similar guidelines the bout was determined to not take place in Brooklyn as scheduled .
Throight the rest of the U.S., most states are beginning to implement statewide stay at home orders, and requiring nonessential businesses to close. However, White had found a loophole in agreeing to hold the event at the Tachi Palace Casino and Resort in Lemoore, Calif. This casino and resort is on sovereign tribal land owned by the Tachi Yokut Tribe and therefore is not under the jurisdiction of the California State Athletic Commission who cancelled all sanctioned combat events in the state until June 1.
White also mentioned he secured a private island to facilitate international fighters who could not make it to the United States for upcoming fights when speaking to ESPN in early April. Clearly, White is hell-bent on bringing promotions and fights to the public in the near future, whether on tribal land, a private island or maybe even on the moon.
White told ESPN on April 14 he was targeting UFC 250 as the first sporting event to return from hiatus with a combination of fights from UFC 249 and UFC 250’s scheduled card but whether the coronavirus outbreak allows that to happen is another story entirely.