And, just like that, the UFC is on hold.
The mixed martial arts promotion Thursday postponed UFC 249, which was scheduled for April 18, and all other events indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC president Dana White told ESPN's Brett Okamoto that UFC 249 was off.
BREAKING: UFC 249 has been canceled. All UFC events postponed indefinitely, due to COVID-19. Dana White says he was ready to promote the event but things were taken out of his control. Much, much more on this to come.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 9, 2020
Though it was initially reported that the card was canceled, White later told TMZ Sports the event was "postponed."
The news comes after White unveiled a full lineup for UFC 249 earlier this week, with the main event being an interim lightweight title bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. White had been steadfast in finding a way to conduct the pay-per-view event despite the COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt to mass gatherings and sporting events.
The mixed reaction to White's insistence on holding the event hadn't deterred the promotion from moving forward, but it appears mounting opposition and surrounding circumstances had become too much for the UFC to overcome.
"Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney (parent company of ESPN), 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 Okamoto.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein suggested that the UFC should reconsider holding the event until the pandemic subsides.
"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," Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a press release on her website. "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."
Although the location had yet to be formally announced, reports surfaced that UFC 249 was set to take place at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Fresno, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a statewide shelter-in-place order, but Tachi Palace is on tribal land, which seemingly would have allowed UFC to circumvent state and federal guidelines against holding mass gatherings.
Feinstein recognized that California law could not prevent UFC 249 from taking place there, but she noted that holding the event carried other risks.
“I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law," she continued in the release. "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 concluded by asking both the UFC and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to push back the event.
"I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date," she said in the release. "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."
And it appears that, finally, the UFC succumbed to the pressure.
White told Okamoto that once he is able to stage fights, the Tachi Palace Casino Resort will be a host location. "When the world gets back to normal, the California event will be there," White said.
White also said that he is going ahead with plans to conduct fights on a private island, presumably for international fighters.
“Fight island is real, it’s a real thing. The infrastructure is being built right now. That thing is going to happen and it will be on ESPN," White told Okamoto.
The island's location has not been disclosed.