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UFC 249 canceled after ESPN, Disney halt promotion’s plans

UFC President Dana White speaks during a news conference.
UFC 249 has been canceled after ESPN and parent company Disney stopped UFC president Dana White’s plan to keep fighting amid the coronavirus outbreak.
(Zhe Ji / Getty Images)

The knockout was scored not by any elected official, but by the cartoon mouse with oversized ears.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship canceled the pay-per-view card that was scheduled to take place on April 18 in Central California after it was persuaded to do so by broadcast partner ESPN and its parent company, Disney.

“Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN,” UFC president Dana White said in a video interview that was posted on the ESPN’s YouTube page. “The powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”

All of future shows have also been postponed indefinitely.

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ESPN released statement:

“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249. 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 and ESPN signed a $1.5-billion agreement in 2018 to broadcast all of the mixed-martial arts organization’s non-pay-per-view events on the network’s streaming service, ESPN+. UFC’s pay-per-view shows are also distributed by ESPN.

Understanding why UFC is refusing to shut down in the middle of a global pandemic requires familiarity with the organization, columnist Dylan Hernandez writes.
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The event on April 18, UFC 249, was lined up to take place at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore. The property is on tribal land and therefore isn’t subject to state measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The fights would presumably have taken place without fans, as was the case with the UFC’s recent show, which was in Brazil.

White planned to stage fights at Tachi Palace for two months, then move the operations to an unspecified island.

White, who previously insisted that UFC would continue to put on fights during the global pandemic, said his organization would be “the first sport back.”

“Fight island is real,” White said. “It’s a real thing. The infrastructure is being built right now. That’s really going to happen and it will be on ESPN.”


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