Former MMA referee John McCarthy was not surprised UFC 249 ended up getting canceled.
The event set to take place April 18 on tribal land in California was indefinitely postponed along with all future UFC events earlier this week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While other sports leagues had postponed or canceled their events, UFC president Dana White remained resolute in resuming the fight schedule. That, however, all came to an end when he was told by the higher-ups at ESPN and Disney to stand down.
It was later reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom called Disney officials and requested that the event be canceled after expressing concerns that the UFC were going around the state’s stay-at-home order.
There was some irony involved as well as all the UFC was looking for was regulation in its early days — now they were trying to get around it. And while McCarthy understands why White wanted to keep the card going, he believes there is no way to win against the government:
“You can win battles and lose wars,” McCarthy said on the latest edition of his podcast (via MMA Junkie). “And that’s what in the end has happened here is politically, you need to understand, when you’re going against the government, you’re probably going to go against something that in the end is probably going to cause you a problem. And if you think that you could beat that? We couldn’t beat it in the past. It was a lot of problems and it caused problems for the UFC in the past, caused problems for the sport, and you start getting senators, you’re getting governors coming down on you?
“There’s lot of power there, man. And eventually Disney and ESPN said this is bad publicity, this is bad for us, we’re going to shut it down. It wasn’t Dana that shut it down, it was his bosses that basically shut it down.”
UFC 249 was originally set to be headlined by a highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. It would have been the fifth time the fight was canceled if White decided to postpone the event.
McCarthy, again, understands why there was an attempt made to keep the show going especially as he, too, was excited to see the matchup.
But when Nurmagomedov had to pull out due to being stuck in Russia, the now Bellator commentator felt White was trying to keep the event going simply just to prove a point.
“This became almost this whole point of now, ‘I said I was going to do something,’ being Dana, ‘and I’m going to prove that I can do it.’ And his whole thing was the Tony-Khabib fight, and I’m kind of in there with him,” McCarthy added. “Let’s just be honest, I want to see that fight. And it’s been shut down four times and man, I don’t want it to be shut down a fifth time.
“I know what’s right, in that, there’s a pandemic going on. It may not be a problem for a young person, athlete-wise. But you’re going to have a problem where they have people they’re coming back to, and if they get sick and give it to someone else, there’s just bad issues involved with that.”
What do you make of McCarthy’s comments?