It is rumoured that UFC 249 will take place at the Tachi Palace Casino resort in Lemoore California. The venue is owned and operated by the Tachi-Yokut Tribe. Like other tribal jurisdictions independence is enjoyed from State laws relating to combative sports.
The Tachi Palace Casino announced on March 20, 2020 that they were suspending all gaming operations to “prioritize the health and wellness of its guests and staff amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)“. If the event takes place in their venue it is unclear why they deem hosting a combative sports event as a safe activity in this environment.
The California State Athletic Commission, who does not have jurisdiction over events hosted on tribal land but has worked with the Tachi-Yokut Tribe in the past, has spoken out against this planned card. The Commission put out a press release today noting as follows:
First and foremost, the Commission’s priority is the health and safety of fighters and the public. With that in mind, the Commission cancelled all events through May 31 based on guidance issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health to help flatten the curve against the spread of COVID-19.
The Commission echoes the guidance of California Governor Gavin Newsom, the Department of Public Health, local health officials, and the recommendations of the Association of Ringside Physicians regarding the cancellation of events where people may be at risk of contracting COVID-19 and encourages the industry to do the same. The Commission will not participate in the UFC event on April 18, regardless of the event location.
For updates about combat sports in California, visit CSAC’s website at www.dca.ca.gov/csac.
In addition to the CSAC, Association of Ringside Physicians has issued comment noting that “all” combative sports events should be suspended until further notice.
When approached for comment Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (“ABC”) President Brian Dunn had no comment advising me “I do not have a comment on the proposed UFC event“. Subsequent to this, however, the ABC appears to have now weighed in. According to the MMA Report the ABC Board of Directors provided the following comment:
“The Association of Ringside Physicians has been actively following the recommendations of the CDC as well as other professional medical societies concerned with the spread of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus”…Sporting events across the world have been cancelled in response to the increased risk of infection and transmission by participants, fans, officials, and support staff.”
“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. We continue to monitor this ever-evolving situation, and our thoughts continue to be with those who have been and will be affected by this disease. Our organization remains steadfast in our mission: to serve, protect, and educate all involved in combative sports.”
Specifically addressing UFC 249 the ABC issued the following warning:
“The Association of Boxing Commission and Combative Sports (ABC) Board of Directors are very concern with an event being on tribal land without the regulation by a tribal/state athletic commission,” the statement said. “The ABC concurs with the Association of Ringside Physicians that it’s a very trying time for the entire world. Fighter safety is paramount. If the fight occurs, it will be considered a non-sanctioned event since a state/tribal commission will not be present. All officials that decide to participate in the event, they may be sanctioned on a tribal/state level.
Update April 8, 2020 – After this development ABC President Dunn weighed in stating that ABC’s official position is ‘neutral‘ on this event with Dunn telling the MMAReport’s Jason Floyd as follows:
“I have discussed the matter with the ABC Board of Directors and officials from the UFC,” Dunn told The MMA Report. “They agreed to increase medical presence and regulate the event by international standards. The official ABC position is neutral on the matter, as we do not have jurisdiction.”
Update April 9, 2020 – Today the ABC’s Brian Dunn has now taken a position instead of remaining ‘neutral‘ advising the ABC will consider this an official event for record keeping purposes. MMAFighting reports Dunn noted as follows:
After speaking with UFC officials, the ABC board of directors determined this event could be listed as sanctioned,” Dunn told MMA Fighting. “When the UFC does international events, they regulate themselves using Nevada Athletic Commission inspectors, and this event on sovereign land is no different.”
Because the event will be be listed as sanctioned, Dunn confirmed that “there will be no sanctions imposed by the ABC for any athletes or officials involved in the event.” He also stated that UFC officials offered to share the additional medical testing done for the athletes.
“I was told that in addition to all usual medical testing requirements, they would screen everyone for COVID-19, have additional doctors and had made pre-arrangements with the nearest hospital to assure the immediate treatment of injured athletes.”
When asked about if subsequent events would be deemed sanctioned, Dunn confirmed that they would — including the international cards.
“If the UFC continues to properly regulate future events, which I am sure they will, future events will be treated the same,” Dunn explained. “We would treat events held on mystery islands the same as well.”
Update April 9, 2020 – US Senator Feinstein came out publicly calling for this event to be cancelled publishing the following press release:
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on news that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to go ahead with an April 18 pay-per-view event at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Fresno, Calif.:
“I’m concerned by reports that Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event in California, in defiance of the state’s shelter-in-place order. This event would involve dozens of individuals flying to California and driving to a casino for a purpose no one can honestly claim is essential.
“I understand this event is scheduled to take place on tribal land and therefore is not subject to state law. However, at best this event ties up medical resources and sends a message that shelter-in-place orders can be flouted. At worst, participants and support staff could carry the virus back to their home communities and increase its spread.
“I call on Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Tachi-Yokut Tribe to reconsider this event and delay it until a later date. We have to be responsible and mindful of all local, state and federal public health guidelines. Going ahead with this event is not the right move.”
Update April 9, 2020 – The UFC finally decided to pull the card.