It took a lot for UFC president Dana White to finally pull the plug on plans to promote a number of upcoming events, but it appears a call from California Governor Gavin Newsom may have been the deciding factor.
White announced on Thursday that the UFC would be postponing all upcoming shows indefinitely, starting with UFC 249 scheduled on April 18. The show was supposed to take place at the Tachi Palace Resort and Casino, which sits on a Native American reservation in California.
State government can’t interfere with events being held on tribal land, but according to a new report from the New York Times, Gov. Newsom still felt compelled to make a call to Disney to express his concerns. Specific details surrounding the call were not revealed.
Disney owns ESPN, which is the broadcast partner of the UFC.
Additional sources confirmed to MMA Fighting on Thursday that people at the highest levels of government in California were showing similar concerns about UFC 249 moving ahead as scheduled. California Senator Dianne Feinstein had already issued a letter protesting UFC 249 happening in the state just before the postponement was announced.
The call from Gov. Newsom to Disney may have been what prompted a meeting with White where he was asked to “stand down” and postpone the upcoming events.
California has been one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus with more than 20,000 confirmed cases and over 540 people who have died from the disease. Newsom was one of the first state governors to issue restrictions based on the COVID-19 outbreak as he sought to “flatten the curve” and bring down the total number of those infected.
White admitted he absolutely planned to move ahead with events as scheduled until he talked to executives from Disney and ESPN, who asked him to postpone the upcoming shows.
There’s no word when the UFC will return, but White has promised that his organization will be the first major sport to begin holding events again.