With COVID-19 impacting the world, there was still hope left for the highly anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 249 event. Dana White, president of the UFC, was planning to hold 12 fights even with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, all taking place in California on April 18.
Supposedly, UFC partners ESPN and Disney were in contact with state officials of California. The highest members in ESPN and Disney spoke with White to let him know he needed to call off the fights.
“These are people I am partners with,” White said. “I have a lot of respect, and I’m going to do it.”
Fans have waited five years for the fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and #1 contender Tony Ferguson to happen for the lightweight title bout. Unfortunately for fans, they were replacing Nurmagomedov with fighter Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov left his training facility in California and instead went to train in his home region of Dagestan, Russia.
“If I can come out of Russia, I’m going to fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is a dream fight for fans. This is my dream fight.”
As it turns out, the implications of coronavirus put Europe on lockdown, creating travel issues for him to return to the United States. Nurmagomedov ended up withdrawing from the fight which postponed it for a fifth time.
COVID-19 also took a toll on Rose Namajunas, a former strawweight women’s champion. She was scheduled to fight against Jessica Andrade, the fighter who previously stole her belt. Namajunas decided to withdraw from UFC 249 after two of her family members passed due to COVID-19.
Their last fight occurred on May 11, 2019, where Namajunas was in control of the whole fight. It was not until Andrade picked her up and slammed her head into the canvas that she won on a technical knockout.
Another spectacular fight that was expected to happen was between the hard-hitting heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Higher odds had Ngannou ending Rozenstruik’s perfect 10-0 record, but only time can tell what will happen when these two return to the octagon.
As for the main card, Greg Hardy, a rising UFC star and former NFL defensive lineman, was set to face Yorgan de Castro, the undefeated challenger. UFC was bound to lose money and viewers once Nurmagomedov backed out, but now they will miss out on millions of dollars that they put in to promote these highly-anticipated matches.
It is unclear when sports, in general, will return due to the pandemic. Yet, there is no doubt that this card will continue sometime in the future whether it be back in California or somewhere else.
White explained his plans for building an alternate UFC arena on an island.
“Fight island is real,” White said. “It’s being built right now.”
No matter where the next UFC fight will take place, the show will eventually go on.