UFC 249 is back on.
The event was originally going to take place on April 18, but pressure from Disney executives and California officials forced UFC President Dana White to put things on hold.
Now, after a series of changes, things are back underway. The event will now take place on Saturday, May 9.
The location of UFC 249 jumped around from several different spots before finally settling on Florida.
Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will still be going at it for the lightweight title. Right now at BetRivers Sportsbook, Ferguson is the -186 favorite, while Gaethje is the +159 underdog.
Florida is UFC 249’s new home
Things have been dry at Indiana’s sportsbooks for over a month now. With all of the major sports leagues around the country shutting their doors because of COVID-19, there just hasn’t been much to bet on.
Hoosiers have only had obscure sports like table tennis to bet on since the shutdowns started.
The one notable exception was the NFL Draft. Indiana’s sportsbooks took advantage of the vacuum to offer all sorts of promotions related to the event.
However, the draft has come and gone. With nothing else left on the docket, sportsbooks and gamblers alike were left waiting for the next thing.
Bettors can thank Florida for pushing that next thing down the line. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently declared professional sports as essential businesses for the state.
That opened up the path for UFC 249 to relocate to the Sunshine State. Other events could follow the UFC’s lead if the majority of the country remains locked down for a while.
There’s already been some speculation on which sports could also be heading down south.
The Match: Champions For Charity golf event, which features Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, and Colts legend Peyton Manning will likely take place in Florida. The idea that Walt Disney World would be the perfect place to resume the NBA season has also been thrown around.
The original plan for UFC 249 was tough to pull off
As shutdowns started around the country, White knew he had some decisions to make.
UFC 249 had Barclays Center in Brooklyn locked down for the event, but as New York City became a hotspot for the health crisis things changed quickly. The event would need a new venue, and White would have to get creative.
His backup plan? Book a private island to hold fights on.
“Fight Island” would be a perfect location, since it’s naturally isolated. An island would also allow other fighters to join in since some of the UFC’s biggest names can’t enter the US while the pandemic is ongoing.
However, it turns out that snatching your own island isn’t a quick and easy process.
White needed to have things ready by that April 18 deadline, and Fight Island just wasn’t happening fast enough.
So White turned to Tachi Palace Resort Casino in Lemoore, CA. It’s a tribal casino on sovereign land, so it can operate while ignoring any shutdown mandates from the state government.
Eventually, Disney made the call to use its leverage as the UFC’s pay-per-view partner to force White to hit the pause button.
Even with the bumps in the road he faced while trying to move UFC 249, White is still holding onto the Fight Island idea. The plan is to host future international fights there starting in June.
Until the construction for that new setup is finished, Florida will likely remain the go-to destination for the UFC.