UFC scraps California event on tribal land

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Thursday scrapped controversial plans to stage a fight card later this month as the United States battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The mixed martial arts organisation had planned to hold UFC 249 without fans at an undisclosed location, reportedly an Indian tribal reservation in California.

However in an abrupt U-turn on Thursday, UFC said it had postponed the event at the request of broadcasters ESPN.

"While the organisation was fully prepared to proceed with UFC 249, ESPN has requested the postponement of the event and subsequent bouts until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," a UFC statement said.

"UFC looks forward to resuming the full live events schedule as soon as possible."

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that UFC chief Dana White planned to hold the event at the Tachi Palace Resort Casino in central California on April 18.

By staging the event on tribal land, the UFC could have sidestepped state guidelines aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19 infections that have brought sports to a standstill.

However the move met with resistance from California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who urged the UFC to postpone.

"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," Feinstein said in a statement.

"Going ahead with this event is not the right move."

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has already postponed three events after officials were unable to find venues to stage fights amid restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.