The Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to hold a pay-per-view event on tribal land in Central California this month, an attempted end run around widespread federal and state guidelines against holding large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people familiar with the decision.
“This place where this fight is going to be on April 18 I have locked up for two months, so I’m going to continue to pump fights out,” White told ESPN on Monday, though he declined to say exactly where.
The location will be the Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Lemoore, Calif., about 40 miles south of Fresno, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because White had not announced the venue. The casino, which closed the night of March 20 because of the pandemic, is on land belonging to the Tachi-Yokut Tribe, part of the federally recognized Santa Rosa Indian Community.
The Association of Ringside Physicians, which represents safety personnel in combat sports, has urged the suspension of all combat sports.
“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,” the association said in a statement. “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.”
By holding the event on tribal land, the U.F.C. is not subject to California’s executive order mandating that people stay at home. The fights on the card also do not need to be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, which normally regulates mixed martial arts events in the state. The commission has canceled all fights through May 31.
The move for a card that includes a highly anticipated fight involving Tony Ferguson is an end run around state regulators and nationwide public health guidelines.