This story was updated at 9:30 PM Eastern | Image: Yahoo
In a dizzying week for the UFC, Dana White told ESPN's Brett Okamoto Thursday afternoon that UFC 249 is canceled and all upcoming events have been postponed indefinitely.
The reason: the highest levels of Disney, owners of ESPN, and the sports network themselves told him to "stand down" and not do the event, which was set for Lemoore, CA's Tachi Palace Casino a week from this Saturday. ESPN is both the UFC's sole North American pay-per-view provider and rightsholder.
The New York Times reported that it was California governor Gavin Newsome that contacted Disney officials.
White insisted that "Fight Island" is real (a reference to a private island White said the company has secured to run shows featuring international fighters) and that the UFC will be the first sport back and that it will be on ESPN. He also revealed the idea was his and Endeavor's Ari Emanuel, co-owner of the UFC. The location and logistics for how that island will work are yet undisclosed.
"When my partner (ESPN) says they are ready to go, I'll be ready to go," White said. Within a month, he claimed that fighters could start training on the island and that an event could happen there soon after.
White said the company could have gone April 18th in Lemoore or another venue he had secured with an athletic commission and the state's governor on board. He didn't disclose what state that was in. White took it as a personal mission to make the 249 show happen, repeatedly insisting that he could make the show happen and denouncing a New York Times article that questioned the company's ability to do COVID-19 testing before, during, and after the show.
From a financial standpoint, White said he would take care of his fighters by getting them all of their contracted fights this year ("everyone is going to get paid") and that no one was getting laid off.
Okamoto said afterward that White told him all 42 scheduled events for the year will still happen as planned.