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NSAC revokes fight permits on COVID-19 concerns until March 25, UFC APEX events safe for now

Following emergency declarations from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and president Donald Trump, the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Saturday pulled the plug on fight permits until March 25, citing imminent safety concerns over the novel coronavirus that’s brought much of the sporting world to a halt.

So far, UFC events planned for March 28 and April 11 at the promotion’s APEX center are unaffected. During an emergency meeting Saturday, the commission also approved a plan to be presented by NSAC executive director Bob Bennett to present a plan that will address ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 virus.

The revocations and plan both received unanimous votes from commissioners, who dialed in to vote. NSAC Chairman Anthony Marnell said the commission wouldn’t answer questions from the public during the hearing.

Earlier on Saturday, The Athletic reported the NSAC had suspended event regulation indefinitely over COVID-19, ruling out the APEX events. Bennett disputed that report in a statement to MMA Fighting, saying the decision hadn’t been “officially made to date.”

”I don’t know where they received that information,” Bennett wrote. “Our next commission meeting is March 25 and we will have factual information to share with you and the public. The chairman and commissioners will make that decision at the appropriate time.”

Per the commission, Bennett will make recommendations “for an appropriate response” to the virus “that observes the commission’s primary mandate to protect the health and safety of the public.”

The March 28 and April 11 UFC events originally were scheduled to take place in Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Ore., respectively. But after Govs. Mike DeWine and Kate Brown issued bans of large gatherings of people, the promotion announced it would move the events to the Las Vegas venue, where it’s produced its Contender Series, and limit the audience to necessary personnel only.

UFC President Dana White said the promotion would work hand in hand with the NSAC to ensure the safety of the fighters and workers at the events. He said the UFC had consulted with doctors and other health officials on protective measures, which he said could include infrared thermometer readings of personnel at the building prior to entry.

White touted the promotion’s safety record and said it goes “overboard” on protecting the fighters. Meanwhile, officials sent to all active fighters a primer on the COVID-19 virus, which advised them to notify the promotion if they were feeling any symptoms such as a fever or a cough.

Several fighters MMA Fighting spoke to expressed optimism that their fights would not be canceled.

”I hate to see things spread worse than what they are because people decide they want to go on with the show, but at the same time, life’s gotta go on,” bantamweight Eddie Wineland said.

The fate of other upcoming UFC events, namely a March 21 date in London and the UFC 249 pay-per-view on April 18 in New York City, remain a question mark, though White has assured the public they will proceed as planned. On Saturday, the U.K. government moved to ban large gatherings of people, adding to a long list of officials who’d done the same, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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