Coronavirus: UFC 249 called off, confirms White

UFC 249 has been called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, UFC president Dana White confirmed.

The event was due to be held in New York on April 18 and headlined by a bout between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

But COVID-19 saw the fight unable to be held in New York and travel restrictions meant Khabib was forced to pull out, although White still wanted the event to go ahead with Ferguson facing Justin Gaethje.

However, White announced on Thursday that the event was off despite his best efforts, having stated he planned to host the action on a private island.

"I told you this whole thing has been a battle since day one," he told ESPN.

"We've been fighting non-stop all day and all night since this pandemic started to put on this event on April 18. Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN. One thing that I've said since we started our relationship and partnership with ESPN, and it's been an incredible one, it's been an amazing partnership, 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 Saturday.

"We're ready to go and one thing that I need to point out is that Tachi Palace in California, the Indian reservation, has had our back this whole time, has stood their ground and was willing to do this fight. Let me tell you this, when the world gets back to normal, the California event will be at Tachi Palace, I'm doing a fight there, I'm going to bring them a big fight and I appreciate them standing with me in this thing.

"One other thing I want to really point out is that all of my fighters that are under contract with me, I want them to feel safe, take time with your 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 next weekend on April 18.

"I'm going to take care of as many people as I possibly can and do whatever it takes to make these guys all feel comfortable. All of my employees, nobody's getting laid off at the UFC, everybody's good, we will be the first sport back. Fight island is real, it's a real thing, the infrastructure is being built right now and that's really going to happen and it will be on ESPN."

In a statement, UFC said no events would take place "until further notice".

More than 95,000 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, with cases exceeding 1.5 million.