The UFC’s return to Las Vegas is now official after the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to approve two events, UFC on ESPN 9 and UFC 250, set to take place at the UFC APEX.
The commission also unanimously approved new COVID-19 protocols to allow the regulation of events without a live audience present. Details on the protocols were sparse, with one commissioner inquiring about contact tracing of any potential post-event positives for the virus. A public records request with the commission is pending.
NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett said the commission worked “hand in glove” with the UFC on the formulation of the protocols and added “everything is moving along according to their operation plan and our protocols.”
The UFC created a 25-page safety plan in response to the pandemic and put it into place earlier this month for a trio of events in Jacksonville, Fla. The plan calls for testing of athletes and staff for coronavirus and social distancing during an event, among other requirements. The promotion tightened testing requirements this week after several hiccups in the plan’s execution, including test results not being available prior to an event.
White targeted the UFC APEX to host events “for the foreseeable future” with limited options available across the country due to bans on large gatherings. The facility previously has hosted Dana White’s Contender Series.
The approval of Las Vegas events, which respectively take place on Saturday and June 6, was the final step in the UFC’s plan to resume its event promotion schedule on home turf. UFC President Dana White one week ago announced UFC on ESPN 9 was “on” despite the commission being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett declined to set a timetable for reopening and said the decision would be based on data about the virus.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday evening announced the further relaxing of restrictions due to the COVID-19 virus, allowing businesses across a wide variety of industries to reopen, including sporting events, concerts and theater performances without an audience. He was scheduled to announce the openings in person as part of the state’s second phase of reopening, but a press conference was canceled when he revealed he was self-quarantining due to potential exposure to the virus.
UFC on ESPN 9 is headlined by a welterweight fight between ex-champ Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. UFC 250 is topped by a featherweight title fight between two-division champ Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer.