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Dana White: UFC headed to Vegas on May 23, NSAC still following governor’s plan

UFC 229 - Khabib v McGregor Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Jacksonville, Fla., was the reported host of the UFC’s fourth event since pausing its live event schedule. But according to UFC President Dana White, the promotion is headed back home.

White on Tuesday told an event set for May 23 will take place in Las Vegas. He did not name a venue for the event, but he’s previously identified the UFC APEX as the likely host of events starting this month.

“Then we’ll be on our regular schedule again and we’ll open up ‘Fight Island,’ start doing international fights,” White said.

On Saturday, the MMA promotion gets back to business at VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Jacksonville with UFC 249. The pay-per-view event will be strictly regulated during fight week – with fighters, staff and media members tested for COVID-19 – to avoid the spread of the virus. The arena also hosts a pair of Fight Night events on May 13 and May 16.

It’s currently unclear how a May 23 UFC event in Las Vegas will be sanctioned. The Nevada State Athletic Commission oversees combat sports events held in Nevada, and the commission is closed until further notice, according to its executive director Bob Bennett.

After White told Variety the UFC APEX would start hosting events in late May for the foreseeable future, Bennett said it was “premature” to comment on a timeline for reopening the commission. He said any plan to reopen would be based on what “data reveals based on the science of COVID-19, and move forward accordingly.”

Bennett on Wednesday again declined to comment on a specific timeline for regulating MMA events in Nevada and said the commission is “still following the governor’s directives, which primarily are predicated on the data from the science of COVID-19.” He added there’s currently no meetings on the commission’s schedule in May.

White also told Barstool Sports the May 23 event in Las Vegas will be one of four events within two weeks. The APEX also will host his Contender Series.

Over the past month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has advocated for a phased approach to reopening the state for business, with decisions based on declining rates of coronavirus infections and deaths. Late this past month, he extended a stay-at-home order until May 15 and said casinos would remain closed. But he green-lighted a plan that allowed for more flexibility on reopening based on geography.

Currently, Sisolak considers Nevada to be in “Phase 1” of COVID-19 recovery, which according to the Las Vegas Review Journal means that large sporting events and concert venues will remain closed. The UFC’s APEX previously has hosted NSAC-regulated events with small crowds for Dana White’s Contender Series.

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