The current climate is calling for creativity on the part of major sports organisers as they seek to find ways to get their live sporting events on.
Dana White has been searching high and low for opportunities to keep the UFC roadshow up and running, and he thought he had found two options to ensure top-level MMA competition could continue.
The first was the Tachi Palace, a casino in California that is located on tribal ground, which would have allowed him to circumnavigate current restrictions on live sport.
The plan was to host UFC 249 there behind closed doors on April 18, after the planned Brooklyn date was forced to be rescheduled.
However, the fight card has experienced a number of difficulties with headliner Khabib Nurmagomedov stuck in Russia and strawweight champion Rose Namajunas withdrawing for personal reasons.
And now it has been confirmed that Disney, who own the UFC brand, and ESPN, the sport’s broadcaster, have both come together to ask White to cancel his scheduled event.
“Today we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level at ESPN,” White confirmed. “The powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday.”
“This whole thing has been a battle since day one.”
Thanking the Tachi Palace for their loyalty, White confirmed his plan to take MMA there in the future.
“I’m going to bring them a big fight, and I appreciate them standing with me in this thing.”
Island Hopping UFC Style
One way to navigate the current restrictions in live sport would be to host events in locations where nobody is around.
That’s an option being considered by Australian rugby chiefs, who are reportedly planning to stage some matches of the NRL season a remote island off the coast of Queensland.
And that was a trail initially blazed by Dana White, who has confirmed plans to host UFC bouts at an unspecified ‘Fight Island’ location.
The MMA firm’s head honcho has spoken of the first quarter of 2020 being the most ‘challenging’ time of his career to date, with a fight-hungry audience unsated by the current hiatus on the action.
White, ever the innovator, is hoping to get fighters back in the Octagon as soon as possible with his optimistic plans, and has spoken of his desire to be the ‘first sport back’.
“I’ve got an island. The infrastructure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island,” White confirmed. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights and getting guys ready.”
There is some method to the madness. White can manage his fighters with continuous testing, while keeping them safe on the island in private accommodation and providing them with professional training facilities in the lead-up to fight night.
The island’s location will also circumnavigate the USA’s current border controls, according to the man himself, allowing international fighters to be added to UFC cards.
Not everybody is impressed with White’s ingenuity, however. Eddie Hearn, the UK’s leading boxing promoter, commented:
“[Dana White] wants to be a trailblazer, people have told him he can’t do it. But I know the feeling of being told something and you do it anyway.
“Half of me admires him for cracking on, but the other half says ‘come on don’t be mad.’”