For UFC fans and fighters, it's been a whirlwind week.

The world's largest mixed martial arts promotion suspended all live events after a fight night in Brazil was held behind closed doors in March, but UFC boss Dana White this week revealed his plan to get events running again.

White announced UFC 249, headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, would go ahead on tribal land in California on April 19 (NZ time). Because it was being held on tribal land the event was not subject to the state's shelter-in-place order.

Because no international fighters could get to the States, UFC 249 was scheduled to only feature fighters currently based in the country, with White indicating the UFC had secured a private island to host international fights in the near future.


However, speaking to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, White confirmed all UFC events had again been suspended indefinitely after a request from the "highest level" people at ESPN and Disney - the UFC's biggest broadcast partners.

"ESPN has been very, very good to us and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next week," White said.

"All of my fighters that are under contract with me, I want them to feel safe, take time with their families and enjoy this time. Don't worry about the financial part of this; you're going to get the fights on your contract and I'm going to make things right with the people who were willing to step up and fight (at UFC 249).

"We'll be the first sport back. Fight Island is real. It's a real thing, the infrastructure is being built right now so that's really going to happen and it will be on ESPN. That's where we stand right now."

White indicated the private island would be ready in about a month's time, and would include facilities where athletes could train.

Kiwi UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker is one of many international fighters expected to be targetted for a fight on the private island, with the UFC letting him know that they were looking to have him fight on May 17 (NZ time).

Whether or not that eventuates remains to be seen, given White's timeline for when it would be ready, but Hooker knows he has to be ready for whatever the company throws at him next.

"We know what kind of company we work for, we know who Dana White is and we know is approach is that of a bull in a china shop – he doesn't muck around too much," Hooker told the Herald. "I know that having Dana White as a boss means I need to stay ready, and I need to be prepared.


"This is the kind of guy it takes to build a sport like we have and as quickly as he has done it. No one anticipated how fast this thing has got to the stage it is – on ESPN which is in every home across the world, which is making a mainstream sport out of a very niche sport when he took the reins. This is the kind of person we work for, so we've come to expect these things from him."

Dan Hooker beat Paul Felder by split decision at UFC Fight Night 168 in Auckland in February. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Hooker beat Paul Felder by split decision at UFC Fight Night 168 in Auckland in February. Photo / Getty Images

Despite fighters voicing their desire to fight as soon as possible, White has been heavily criticised in the media and online for his tunnel-vision approach to finding a way for the company to put on events during a worldwide pandemic.

Hooker, ranked No5 in the lightweight division, said that, like many, the fighters just want to get back to work.

"Everyone's in the same boat. A lot of jobs have been put on the line and I feel like a lot of people want to get back to business as soon as possible," he said.

"If someone's giving me an opportunity to feed my family, they're giving me an opportunity to pay my mortgage, I'm taking it. I feel like there are a lot of small business owners and a lot of people whose jobs are in jeopardy at the time who would take the chance that I'm being offered.

"Yes I understand the health risks and it is a bit bullish of them to put it on, but from my perspective – a very selfish perspective – I want to get back to work, and this is my job. This is me getting back to work as soon as possible." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website