Reports: Dana White plans to hold UFC 249 on California tribal land to bypass COVID-19 safety regulations

Yahoo Sports

It turns out that UFC 249 won’t be held on a mystery private island.

According to multiple reports, UFC president Dana White is planning to host the MMA pay-per-view on April 18 at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort, a casino on Central California Tribal land south of Fresno.

Jeff Sherwood of Between Rounds Radio on Patreon first reported the news, which was later verified by the New York Times.

The report arrives a day after White told TMZ that he was close to securing a private island where he would host UFC events on a weekly basis. White has repeatedly promised that he was lining up a location for the event that was originally scheduled to be held in New York before regulators shut it down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Report: Locale is an effort to skirt COVID-19 protocols

The reported move to hold the event on tribal land appears to be an effort to circumvent state and federal safety guidelines put in place to protect the public from the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Sporting events and other large gatherings have been shut down worldwide in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19.

But White has repeatedly insisted that the UFC is the exception to protections against coronavirus contagion while calling his media critics “the weakest, wimpiest people on Earth.”

According to the Times, holding the event on tribal land would allow UFC to host it without being sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, which has canceled all fights through May 31. The tribal land is also not subject to an order from California Gov. Gavin Newsome mandating people stay home unless conducting essential tasks like seeking medical help or purchasing food.

“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,” a CSAC statement reads, per the Times. “The commission will not participate in the UFC event on April 18, regardless of the event location.”

Neither the UFC or the Tachi Palace Casino Resort immediately responded to a Times request for comment.

Dana White has repeatedly resisted calls to shut down fights amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Dana White has repeatedly resisted calls to shut down fights amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

White’s insistence that UFC will go on

After most of the sports world shut down in mid-March, White pushed on with UFC Brasilia in an empty arena. A friend and public supporter of President Donald Trump, White has often followed Trump’s lead when it comes to approaching the COVID-19 pandemic.

He cited a conversation with the White House on March 12 as influencing his decision to host UFC Brasilia days after the NBA suspended its season and the NCAA tournament was canceled.

“I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States today about this,” White told ESPN. They’re taking this very serious. “They’re saying, ‘Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.’ ”

White also insisted that UFC events scheduled for March 21 and 28 and April 11 would go on amid the pandemic, claiming that only a “total shutdown” of the United States would cancel them. Only when Trump relayed guidelines on March 16 that Americans avoid gatherings of more than 10 people did White relent and postpone the scheduled events.

High stakes for UFC 249

UFC 249 was one of the most anticipated cards in the history of mixed martial arts, originally headlined by a title showdown between undefeated middleweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and challenger Tony Ferguson, a fight the UFC community has anticipated for years.

Nurmagomedov announced on April 1 that he would not participate as he would remain with his family in his home in Russia during the pandemic. Justin Gaethje has since replaced Khabib on the scheduled card and is slated to fight Ferguson on April 18.

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