The UFC 249 secret location isn't so secret anymore. The revamped fight card featuring Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje is headed to Tribal Lands in Northern California.
The Tachi Palace Casino Resort, which belongs to the Tachi-Yokut tribe of the federally recognized Santa Rosa Indian Community, is located in Lemoore, Calif. The casino was at one time the home of the WEC, which the UFC later purchased and merged into its promotion.
News of Tachi Palace being the host location for UFC 249 was first reported by Sherdog.com founder Jeff Sherwood on Twitter. The New York Times on Tuesday published an article citing Sherwood and "people who spoke on condition of anonymity," as confirming Tachi Palace as the host location.
UFC officials told MMAWeekly.com, "We are not announcing the location for the April 18th event, so we have no further comment regarding any articles that speculate locations."
UFC President Dana White mentioned in an ESPN interview on Monday that he had locked up a location for UFC 249 and future events over the next two months, though he would not reveal the location.
"This place where this fight is gonna be on April 18, I have locked up for two months. So I'm gonna continue to pump fights out," White said, before adding, "I've also secured an island. The infrastructure is being built right now. We're going to do all of our international fights on this island."
Why would the UFC move to Tribal Lands?
If it has secured Tachi Palace on Tribal Lands, the UFC is not bound by California Gov. Gavin Newsom's statewide stay-at-home order. The UFC fight cards held there are also not required to be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, which has canceled all combative sports events statewide through at least May 31.
Though White initially told ESPN that there would be an athletic commission on site, it appears that the promotion would likely have to self-regulate its events at Tachi Palace, similar to what the promotion does when it holds events in territories that do not have their own regulatory bodies.
In such cases, Marc Ratner, the UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and a former Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, oversees regulating the events, making sure that everything follows along with how an athletic commission would administer regulation.
One potential hurdle the UFC faces could be in the form of which officials would be willing to work the events at Tachi Palace, especially considering they could face repercussions from athletic commissions that don't look favorably upon the UFC moving forward amidst numerous lockdowns across the globe.
California State Athletic Commission will not participate in UFC 249
“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 California State Athletic Commission said in a statement reported in the N.Y. Times piece. “The commission will not participate in the U.F.C. event on April 18, regardless of the event location.”
"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," read the aforementioned Association of Ringside Physicians 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."
Association of Boxing Commissions takes neutral stance on UFC 249
An initial statement attributed to the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) as noted by The MMA Report stated, in part, "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."
Brian Dunn, President of the ABC, clarified the association's position in a direct statement to MMAWeekly.com.
"The UFC isn’t doing anything illegal. I have discussed the matter with the ABC board of directors, and officials from the UFC. They agreed to increase medical presence and regulate the event by international standards," said Dunn.
"The official ABC position is neutral on the matter, as we do have have jurisdiction."
Dunn said that the ABC would not pursue sanctions against officials that participate, but that he could not control other jurisdictions or athletic commissions in that regard. None of the commissions we asked commented on whether or not officials would face any repercussions from working such events. It should also be noted that many officials that work for various commissions across the United States have worked self-regulated UFC events in other territories without repercussion.
Dana White insists health and safety is paramount at UFC 249
Insisting that health and safety are always paramount to the UFC, White went to great lengths in his ESPN interview to ensure everyone that the health of anyone involved with the UFC putting on events during the global pandemic was at the top of his list of priorities.
"Health and safety is a thing that we worry about all the time not just during the coronavirus. Obviously, this has made our jobs a little tougher, but we're going to do everything above and beyond to make sure that everybody is safe that is associated with this event, just like we always do," said White.
"We've consulted with our doctor, Dr. (Jeffrey) Davidson, who has consulted with many other doctors. And, like I said, the health and safety of not just the athletes, but the athletic commission that will be there, the referees and judges that will be there, my production staff that will be there. I'm gonna be there. We're making sure that everyone is taken care of. We're making sure that we go above and beyond to make sure that everyone is safe."