At a time when all major sports have shuttered, the UFC and the WWE had found a way to keep going. When it comes to the UFC, the key word is “had.”
UFC president Dana White has announced that UFC 249 has been postponed, after receiving instructions to “stand down” from the “highest level you can go” at ESPN and Disney. The pressure from ESPN and Disney likely emerged after Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement urging the UFC to pull the plug.
“I’m concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order,” Feinstein said. “This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential.
“I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law. However, at best this event ties up medical resources and sends a message that shelter-in-place orders can be flouted. At worst, participants and support staff could carry the virus back to their home communities and increase its spread.
“I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date. We have to be responsible and mindful of all local, state and federal public health guidelines. Going ahead with this event is not the right move.”
White surely would have ignored Feinstein without being pressured by ESPN and Disney to stop. He’s not the kind of guy who likes outsiders telling him what to do, and even though his statement acknowledging the postponement praises his relatively new broadcast partners, it’s hard not to wonder this one will fester for White — especially he’s also apparently been told to cancel all UFC events, despite his plan to hold weekly events on Gilligan’s Island.