UFC president Dana White announced that UFC 249 on April 18, which was reportedly going to be held on tribal land in Northern California at Tachi Palace Casino Resort, was canceled at the direction of ESPN owner Disney. Tachi Palace is owned by the Tachi-Yokut Tribe, part of the federally recognized Santa Rosa Indian Community. The event would have streamed via PPV on the ESPN+ app.
Now the New York Times reports that the pressure came from California’s governor.
California state officials intervened by directly expressing their concerns about the event to Disney, the parent company of the UFC’s broadcast partner, ESPN, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California called Disney officials, according to one of the people familiar with the conversations. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the details of the calls.
Disney declined to comment, and Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249,” ESPN said in a statement. “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.”
Because of a nearly 70-year-old federal law, Public Law 280, California state and local officials have broad authority to intervene in criminal and civil matters on tribal land. By expressing their concerns to Disney, California state officials avoided a potentially complicated and uncomfortable situation with the Tachi-Yokut.