UFC 249 is officially off. This messy chapter is over after ESPN and Disney intervened. Originally set for Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, UFC 249 was the most anticipated card of the year. Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagamedov v Tony Ferguson was the exciting main event.
But then it all started to fall apart. First of all, restrictions in New York forced the UFC to search for a new location. Then Khabib returned to his native Russia just before the borders shut. Justin Gaethje was his new replacement. Things kept getting crazier.
There was talk of fighting on a private island. However, Tachi Palace was the UFC’s secret location for the card. Dana White was waging a personal war against the current pandemic. But finally, the powers that be shut him down properly.
White went after this card like a bull. But in the end, it just didn’t work out for him. The Governor of California Gavin Newsom discovered White’s plan to hold UFC 249 on Indian grounds. Understandably concerned, he spoke to executives from both ESPN and Disney. Then they relayed the message to White that it’s all over.
“Today we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN,” White said in a video interview with ESPN. “One thing that I’ve said since we’ve started our relationship and partnership with ESPN is 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.”
White remains adamant that the UFC will be the first sport to return when this is all over. The ‘Fight Island’ idea isn’t going away either. They’re genuinely building the infrastructure and it’s probably going to be the next Ultimate Fighter style show. We didn’t know the world needed that but we’re not mad. At the end of the day, it’s probably the right decision.
“We will be the first sport back,” White said. “‘Fight Island’ is real. It’s a real thing. The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really going to happen and it will be on ESPN.”
This is a blow for White but in the end, it is the rational decision. If just one fighter tested positive for coronavirus it would be a PR nightmare for the promotion. Also, hospitals don’t need needlessly injured UFC fighters rocking up in their A&E wards. Medical staff don’t need that added strain.
But you’d have to be heartless not to feel sorry for the fighters. This is incredibly frustrating for all of them, not least Tony Ferguson. But the only positive now is that the UFC may book him against Khabib again. If that happens you should probably stay indoors because an asteroid is going to hit earth or something.
Also, spare a thought for Rose Namajunas. She endured a lot of criticism over the past couple of days for pulling out of her rematch against Jessica Andrade. There were questions about her mentality and will to fight. However, it has since emerged that three of her family members have died as a direct result of the ongoing health emergency. She has nothing to apologise for.