Despite his seemingly never-ending efforts, Dana White’s quest to hold UFC 249 amid the COVID-19 pandemic failed last week.
The UFC president, however, is already eyeing his next bout — and targeting a date less than a month away.
White, according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, is focused on holding an event on May 9, though has yet to name a location or any confirmed fights. Per Okamoto, White is targeting several bouts for the card, including Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje, Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer, Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone and Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz, to name a few.
White tried extremely hard to make UFC 249, which was initially scheduled to take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, happen. When that first venue fell through, he tried relentlessly to find a new location — and even suggested hosting it at a private island.
He finally reached a deal to hold it at a casino on tribal land in California, which would have allowed him to get around state regulations that prohibit public gatherings and MMA events due to the coronavirus. That, though, was canceled last Thursday after both ESPN and Disney officials called him to shut it down. California Gov. Gavin Newsom reportedly put in a call to Disney executives about the event, too.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 604,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, and more than 25,700 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. There is still no vaccine — one isn’t expected for quite some time — and testing is not widely available, either.
What White expects to change between now and May 9 is unclear. But with ESPN, Disney and political leaders all having stepped in to stop him before, it’s highly unlikely that they will be OK with White going forward with another fight card less than four weeks from now without a significant change in the battle against the coronavirus.
White has, though, vowed that the UFC will be the “first sport back” from the pandemic, and that “fight island is real.” If he can’t find a traditional venue in the country for the fight, he very well could retreat to the island idea once again.
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