UFC 249 has been cancelled and all upcoming UFC events have been postponed indefinitely.
The stunning reversal comes just days after UFC president Dana White confirmed plans to move forward with events starting with the card planned on April 18. The UFC has now decided to postpone all of its upcoming shows with no timeline for when the promotion will return to action.
UFC broadcast partner ESPN initially reported the news.
“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.”
The UFC initially postponed three events scheduled on March 21, March 28 and April 11 due to the initial outbreak of COVID-19.
In the aftermath of those cards being cancelled, White was adamant about promoting cards starting with UFC 249 in April. Just recently, White had secured a location for upcoming events with the Tachi Palace Resort and Casino in Lemoore, Calif., serving as a makeshift home for the promotion, with weekly events targeted over the next two months.
White also revealed plans to secure a private island where he could hold shows for international fighters unable to get into the United States due to current travel restrictions.
For all events, White promised to screen fighters and all other event attendees before and just prior to the event. Several people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans later told MMA Fighting that attendees were being sent at-home coronavirus tests, and they expected another round of tests just prior to the event.
The fight card was scheduled to proceed with a makeshift headliner after UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was ruled out of a fight with Tony Ferguson, the fifth cancelation of the booking, due to reported travel restrictions from the coronavirus. In Nurmagomedov’s place went Justin Gaethje, who was set to fight Ferguson for the interim title. On Wednesday, ex-champ Rose Namajunas withdrew from a rematch with Jessica Andrade; her manager later said the withdrawal was the result of two deaths in Namajunas’ family from the coronavirus.
Now, the entire card has been scrapped with the UFC postponing all upcoming shows due to the ongoing pandemic.
“While the organization was fully prepared to proceed with UFC 249, ESPN has requested the postponement of the event and subsequent bouts until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the promotion said in a prepared statement released after White’s announcement. “UFC looks forward to resuming the full live events schedule as soon as possible.”
While the upcoming cards have been postponed, White promised that the UFC will still be the first sport to begin holding events again — and he’s still planning on taking events to that private island.
“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.