UPDATE: UFC President Dana White has confirmed to ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto that, after all the grand plans of hosting UFC 249 on an island, UFC 249 has been canceled and all UFC events have been postponed for the near future.
White also had a message to all the fighters who were willing to fight on the card, despite coronavirus concerns: "Don't worry about the financial part of this. You're going to get the fights on your contract. I'm going to make things right for the people who were willing to fight next weekend."
Although White had talked about hosting UFC events on an island he was set to secure, UFC 249 was actually going to take place on tribal land at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. The New York Times previously reported this, and White confirmed that in his interview with Okamoto.
White said he was asked to postpone the event by Disney and ESPN executives. ESPN is currently UFC's broadcast partner.
"Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN … and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event on Saturday," White said.
White told Okamoto he still plans to promote 42 events this year.
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UFC 249 will go down in history, no matter what. Mainly because Dana White is proving himself to be the most stubborn combat sports promoter in history. Mainly because he's dead set on trying to re-enact the plot of Enter The Dragon and Mortal Kombat in real life.
Please allow me to explain.
As a result of the coronavirus canceling pretty much every sporting event you can think of, UFC President Dana White has done the unimaginable. He has rented a private island where he will host fights starting with UFC 249 and onward for the next two months. Almost certainly the fights will take place in an empty arena with practically no one in attendance but the fighters, a referee and a tripped back broadcast team. Call him irresponsible, call him insane, but White is doing everything he can to bring sport to a planet utterly deprived of sport.
"I'm going to continue to pump fights out," he said. "I also secured an island. I've got an island. The infrastructure is being built right now. We're going to do all of our international fights on this island."
This is absolute madness.
But there are rumors the card isn't taking place on an island at all. The New York Times claims UFC 249 will take place in the Tachi Palace Casino Resort, 40 miles south of Fresno, California on tribal land.
Regardless Dana White wants to keep the location secret.
UFC 249 was already a card loaded with drama. It was supposed to host one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, a fight that had previously been booked (and subsequently canceled) four times, as a result of injuries and fighters missing weight. This time all it took was a global pandemic to shut this fight down for a fifth time. The current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is currently trapped in Russia as a result of coronavirus lockdowns and can't make the fight.
So now we have a new main event: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje. Outside of bringing Conor McGregor in as a replacement, this is probably the best possible outcome.
This is legitimately a fight between two human bulls, two fighters who will march forward no matter what. Gaethje, especially, has been in practically nothing but fight of the year contenders. He will kick your legs till you cannot walk. Ferguson is also known for his incredible cardio and pressure. This will be a fight to remember.
For context, Ferguson is in the middle of a legendary 12 fight win streak in the UFC. The lightweight division is the UFC's most competitive, so that's an incredible achievement. Gaethje's last three fights ended in utterly savage first round knockouts. He's probably the most dangerous fighter in the division.
This fight will be utter chaos.
UFC 249 is also bolstered by an amazing undercard. Multiple UFC events have been canceled as a result of the coronavirus, so this card is stacked top to bottom with rescheduled fights. Unfortunatly Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade is an incredibly compelling rematch, has been recently cancelled, but Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik is a terrifying contest between arguably the two most dangerous heavyweights in the UFC.
This is going to be a good card. If it happens.
How to watch UFC 249
This year the UFC entered a new partnership with ESPN. That's great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. If you want to watch UFC live in the US especially.
In the US, if you're looking for how to watch UFC 249, you'll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN's site.
- Existing yearly ESPN Plus subscribers can order the upcoming UFC fight for $65.
- Existing monthly ESPN Plus subscribers will be able to either upgrade to an annual plan and buy UFC PPV for $85 or purchase the ability to watch UFC PPV for $65 by itself.
- New ESPN Plus subscribers can buy a bundle of one UFC PPV event (streaming in HD) and an ESPN Plus annual recurring subscription for $85. The ESPN Plus annual ESPN subscription will autorenew after one year, at the price of an ESPN Plus annual subscription at the time of autorenewal.
You can do all of the above at the link below.
MMA fans in the UK looking for how to watch UFC 249, will find it exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options to watch UFC live if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 249 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also stream online on the UFC website or watch UFC live online using its app to stream on your computer or smart TVs. You can even order UFC using your PlayStation 4 to watch the fight or stream using the UFC app on your Xbox One.
UFC 249 takes place on Saturday, April 18 in the US. Although unlike most UFC events we can expect, given the current situation with COVID-19, this is a fluid situation. Times and dates could change at any time. We'll endeavour to keep this as up-to-date as possible.
- The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT)
- The prelims start at 8 p.m. ET
- The early prelims start at 6:15 p.m. ET
(Note in the UK UFC 249 starts Sunday April 19.)
- The main card starts at 3 a.m. GMT
- The prelims start at 1 a.m. GMT
- The early prelims start at 11:15 p.m. GMT
(Note in Australia UFC 249 starts on Sunday, April 19.)
- The main card starts at 12 p.m. AEDT
- The prelims start at 10 a.m. AEDT
- The early prelims start at 8:15 a.m. AEDT
- Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
- Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro
- Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
- Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar
- Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Uriah Hall vs. Ronaldo Souza
- Alexander Hernandez vs. Omar Antonio Morales Ferrer
- Marlon Vera vs. Ray Borg
- Michael Johnson vs. Khama Worthy
- Sijara Eubanks vs. Sarah Moras
- Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey