UFC 249 is officially off. ESPN and parent company Disney convinced UFC president Dana White to finally postpone the event that was slated to take place on a Native American reservation in California after the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now the UFC is forced to grapple with what comes next. All future events are in limbo, as is the potential availability of some international fighters, like lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jose Aldo, because of travel restrictions.
According to White, the organization's focus is still on hosting a full fight card for UFC 249 in the future, and he already has a venue in mind.
"Tachi Palace in California, the Indian reservation, has had our back this whole time, has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight," White told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "And let me tell you this: When the world gets back to normal, California, that [fight] will be at Tachi Palace."
It's clear that card will not take place on April 18 as planned, but White is adamant about reviving it down the line. Whether Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson and Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade will return as the co-main events is a bit harder to forecast.
Prior to the event's cancellation, Namajunas' manager announced Thursday that she was pulling out of UFC 249 after two of her family members died while suffering from COVID-19.
"All of my fighters that are under contract with me, I want them to feel safe, take time with your families and enjoy this time," White said. "Don't worry about the financial part of this. You're gonna get the fights in your contract, and I'm gonna make things right with the people who were willing to step up and fight next weekend on April 18. And I'm gonna take care of as many people as I possibly can and do whatever it takes to make these guys all feel comfortable."
In the meantime, White is still focused on setting up fights on a remote island in order to limit the amount of people who are involved and, in theory, decrease the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The UFC boss says he has secured an island already, yet he refused to explain in any further detail.
White believes UFC can be one of the first leagues to return when professional sports are able to operate again, even if that means holding matches with no fans in attendance. Though the latest discussions with Disney and ESPN—UFC's broadcast partner—are no doubt a setback, White is confident it's only minor.
"It's all good. We're going to get through this," White said. "We'll be the first ones back. Fight Island is coming, all the good stuff. It's coming, man. We'll get this thing squared away, get a date from ESPN, and we'll be back first, and we'll get these fights going that everybody wants to see."