Disney Caves and Forces Cancellation of UFC Pay-Per-View After Complaint From Dianne Feinstein
UFC promoter Dana White had done his best to resist the mass hysteria surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and vowed to hold shows against the odds to entertain his millions of fans.
But that will not be happening, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) intervened and complained about a UFC pay-per-view event that was scheduled to take place in April 18.
“I’m concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order. This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential,” she wrote in a press release on Thursday.
Even though she admitted that she had no jurisdiction over the decision because it was scheduled to take place at a casino on tribal land, Feinstein still called for the event to be called off.
“I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law. However, at best this event ties up medical resources and sends a message that shelter-in-place orders can be flouted. At worst, participants and support staff could carry the virus back to their home communities and increase its spread,” Feinstein wrote.
“I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date. We have to be responsible and mindful of all local, state and federal public health guidelines. Going ahead with this event is not the right move,” she added.
Feinstein’s agitation to get the event cancelled was ultimately successful. White announced on Thursday that Disney put their foot down and essentially ordered him to cancel the event.
“Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN … and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event on Saturday,” White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Thursday.
Disney owns ESPN, which airs all UFC events on their television network or their digital streaming service. They caved under the pressure and succumbed to the panic.
“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249. Nobody wants to see sports return more than we do, but we didn’t feel this was the right time for a variety of reasons. ESPN expressed its concerns to the UFC and they understood,” ESPN said in their official statement about why they folded.
White gave credit to Tachi Palace Casino Resort in California for being willing to step up in a pinch and host the pay-per-view.
“It’s been a battle since day one,” White said of the card. “We’ve been fighting nonstop all day and all night, since this pandemic started, to put on this event on April 18.
“… Tachi Palace in California, the Indian reservation, has had our back this whole time, has stood their ground, and was willing to do this fight. And let me tell you this: When the world gets back to normal, California, that [fight] will be at Tachi Palace.”
White had said previously that he planned to host fights on a private island. Although that idea is currently postponed, he still hopes to make it a reality in the very near future.
“I can go next week,” White said. “So whenever my partner gives me the thumbs-up that they’re ready to go, I’m ready to go.”
White may be ready to hold fights, but government officials who want the public to be as miserable as possible during the lock down will not make it easy for him to do so.