Dana White relents on coronavirus, postpones UFC events after President Trump says it would be unsafe

Dana White, UFC president, talks about a mixed martial arts light heavyweight bout between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson scheduled for UFC 232 in Las Vegas, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, during a news conference at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Turns out Dana White didn't need a total shutdown of the country to cancel UFC events amid the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After days of publicly downplaying the risks of holding UFC events in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, UFC president Dana White is falling in line with the rest of the sports world.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

White reportedly sent an email to UFC employees on Monday to inform them that UFC events on March 21, March 28 and April 11 have been indefinitely postponed.

The decision comes just two days after saying it would take a total shutdown of the United States to stop him from holding fights.

Dana White follows Trump’s lead on coronavirus

White’s reversal was first reported less than an hour after President Donald Trump, a friend of White’s, acknowledged the threat of the coronavirus and advised against gatherings of more than 10 people. White had previously cited a discussion with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as one of the reasons why he was still trying to hold UFC events with fans.

In explaining his decision on SportsCenter, White said he had an agreement to hold the March 21 event at Fire Lake Arena on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma, but finally pulled the plug after Trump indicated doing so would be unsafe.

Part of White’s email, via ESPN:

"As you've heard me say, I've been in the fight game for 20 years, and this is what we do -- we find a way to keep our events going no matter what," White wrote in the email, which ESPN obtained a copy of. "But this is different. The whole world is being affected right now, and nothing is more important than the health and safety of you and your families."

The decision will put the UFC in line with nearly every other major sports league that has suspended its season or cancelled events, including the NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, PGA Tour and several soccer leagues.

UFC events had lost venues due to coronavirus

The writing had likely been on the wall for days before White made his decision. Here was the status of every UFC event scheduled for the next month:

What of UFC 249 and coronavirus?

White stopped short of postponing the event directly following April 11, and for a clear reason.

UFC 249, previously scheduled to be held in Brooklyn on April 18, is scheduled to feature the lightweight title fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and challenger Tony Ferguson, a highly anticipated bout partially because a fight between those two fighters has been called off a whopping four different times in the past.

Now, the fight doesn’t have a home, and the UFC could be looking at calling off a fifth Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight. White guaranteed on SportsCenter that the fight will happen on April 18, even if he has to move it out of the United States.

We’ll see if he ends up having to reverse course again.

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