UFC 249 Canceled Despite Dana White’s Best Efforts

Posted on April 14, 2020

UFC 249 is no longer happening, even with UFC President Dana White’s push to keep things moving.

The main card for the event featured a bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje for the lightweight belt scheduled or April 18.

Since COVID-19 has forced most of the major sports leagues around the country to shut down, the UFC was the only “popular” sport still available for gambling.

Now that lifeline for sports bettors is off the board, and it won’t be returning any time soon. Future UFC events have also been canceled for the foreseeable future.

Disney asked Dana White to cancel the event

The UFC took the opposite stance compared to most sports leagues by refusing to shut down. Dana White’s decision to push things forward inevitably led to controversy.

The event was going to take place in California, but eventually, state officials started pressuring Disney to force its cancellation. That pressure eventually led to Disney executives giving UFC 249 the ax. ESPN+, which Disney owns, is the UFC’s exclusive pay-per-view partner.

Even though Disney doesn’t own the UFC, if the company refused to air UFC 249 on ESPN+, it would effectively kill the event. The UFC depends on those pay-per-view sales, so reversing its course was the only option here.

White tried to book a private island and a tribal casino for fights

UFC 249 was originally going to take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. However, as New York City began shutting down to limit the spread of COVID-19, it became clear that the event was going to need a new venue.

To solve that problem, Dana White came up with the idea of booking a private island to hold fights on.

That could plug some holes since an island would naturally be more isolated than an arena in a city. It could also allow some international fighters to show up for events since some aren’t able to enter the US while the pandemic is ongoing. However, the process of securing the island was a difficult one for White.

With UFC 249’s April 18 start date looming, White needed to lock down a venue quickly.

He turned towards Tachi Palace Resort Casino in Lemoore, California. Since the tribal casino is on sovereign land, it would be able to hold the event while ignoring any forced cancellations that California’s government placed on the rest of the state.

Eventually, Disney came calling and forced White to just shut the whole thing down.

White is still trying to lock down the island for future fights. The plan is to secure the space for a two-month period and host frequent bouts there.

UFC 249’s cancellation could be a blessing in disguise for fans

It may be a while before the UFC can reschedule UFC 249, but that might not be a bad thing for fighting fans. The event was originally going to feature Khabib Nurmagomedov rather than Justin Gaethje, but Nurmagomedov wasn’t able to enter the US for the event. He’s stuck at home thanks to Russia’s COVID-19 lockdown.

The postponement might go on for a long enough time to allow Nurmagomedov to leave Russia and join the main card again. He’s the undefeated lightweight champion, so the delay could give him a chance to defend his title. While it deprives bettors in Indiana of a short-term option of something to wager on, the end product could be much better than if UFC 249 had gone on as planned.

That would give fans and bettors alike the matchup they were expecting in the first place.

It may be a longer wait than expected, but at least there could be a more competitive fight on the horizon. Right now, there’s no timeline for the return of the UFC. Until we know more, fans will no doubt be hoping for a quick return.

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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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