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UFC 249 has officially been canceled.
UFC President Dana White was trying his best to keep the event going amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying for weeks that he was going to maintain a regular schedule of fights while the rest of the sports world has been on hold. But ESPN and parent company Disney stopped White’s plan.
“I was ready to go on Saturday, but Disney and ESPN asked me to step down,” White said, according to The Associated Press. “I love and respect my partnership with them so I postponed the event.”
White “got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN” asking him to cancel the shows, he said in an interview on ESPN.
UFC 249 was set for April 18 on ESPN Plus pay-per-view, and White planned to follow it with regular fight cards from the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino on tribal land in California.
White said he is still seeking a plan to build an octagon and everything else needed to telecast small fight shows on an anonymous private island. White had planned to use the “Fight Island” in upcoming months for non-American fighters who couldn’t get into the United States.
“Fight Island infrastructure is being built and will be up and running ASAP,” White told The Associated Press.
A few hours earlier on Thursday, former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas dropped out of her co-main event bout at UFC 249 after there were two deaths in her family related to the coronavirus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein also issued a statement asking the UFC to reconsider its plan to go forward with the event.
The UFC held a full fight card in an empty arena in Brazil last month, but it canceled its last three shows after attempting to hold two of the cards in an empty arena owned by the UFC in Las Vegas. However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s temporary ban on combat sports stopped that plan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.