California has imposed a ban on all combat sports events until the end of May due to the coronavirus pandemic, but according to a report from the New York Times, the UFC may have found a way to work around the limitations in order to hold events.
The publication states that the promotion intends to hold multiple events, including the upcoming UFC 249, on tribal land in Central California. Dana White had initially told reporters that he had found a location in the United States to host fights and that he had locked in the location for two months. He also stated that he had found a “private island” to host events so that international fighters could compete for the UFC even if they weren’t allowed to enter the US.
Sources told the NYT that UFC 249 is planned to be held at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lenmore, CA, which is located near Fresno. The casino is located on land belonging to the Tachi-Yokut Tribe, which is part of the Santa Rosa Indian Community. The casino closed on March 20 due to the virus, and neither the casino nor the UFC responded to the NYT’s request for comment.
Holding events on tribal land would enable the UFC to get around the California government’s executive order requiring people to stay home unless absolutely necessary, and it also means that the fights wouldn’t require sanctioning from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). The decision would go against the recommendation of the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP), which has said in an official statement, “It is our recommendation that all combat sporting events be postponed until further notice. This includes any and all events, regardless of the number of people involved. Any combat sport taking place during this global pandemic places the athletes, officials, and anyone else involved in the event under unnecessary risk of infection and transmission of Covid-19. In addition, combat sports athletes often require medical attention after a bout, and we do not wish to see any additional strain on an already overwhelmed medical system.”
UFC 249 has already undergone multiple changes, with the location first being changed from NYC after coronavirus-related restrictions began across the world. Then, the news broke that Khabib Nurmagomedov would no longer be fighting in the main event against Tony Ferguson, marking the fifth time that a fight between the athletes had been canceled. As of now, Justin Gaethje is scheduled to fight against Ferguson on April 18 in the main event of UFC 249.