California Governor Blamed For UFC 249 Being Cancelled

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UFC 249 Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje
Image courtesy of the UFC

In light of UFC 249 being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom was responsible for the decision not to go ahead with the event.

UFC 249 was originally scheduled to take place on April 18th in Brooklyn, New York, before the promotion was forced to relocate the event to a secret location. Now known to be the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, California. However, that also fell through. Shortly after UFC president Dana White announced the news, ESPN made the following statement:

“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249. Nobody wants to see sports return more than we do, but we didn’t feel this was the right time for a variety of reasons. ESPN expressed its concerns to the UFC and they understood.”

The New York Times has since reported that Gavin Newsom personally contacted ESPN’s owner Disney, to put a stop card.

Prior to the announcement, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a press release condemning the UFC’s intentions to go ahead with UFC 249 on land owned by its residents, so-called ‘Tribal Land’. Feinstein posted the following statement in regard to the UFC cancelling the event.

“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. 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.”

The reason why the UFC chose Tribal Land is that laws in the states do not apply on the land, which is governed by their own rules and regulations. Thus, the UFC was able to avoid the restrictions imposed by California, which prevent state sports events from occurring. Although the regulations differ, California is also subject to a federal law (Public Law 280) that allows the state’s governor to intervene when it’s considered that a significant law violation is occurring on Tribal Land.

The UFC has decided to postpone all its events indefinitely, and thus joins the rest of the sports world on complete lockdown. Dana White’s remains adamant however that he will have his Fight Island up and running in around one month. The UFC boss also stated that the promotion will still hold 42 cards in 2020.

You can see how the MMA world reacted to the news that UFC 249 has been cancelled here.

Do you think it was the right decision to postpone UFC 249?