Nevada poised to welcome back combat sports as athletic commission schedules first meeting

For the first time in two months, the fight capital of the world is nearly ready to host combat sports again.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has scheduled its first meeting since it suspended combat sports indefinitely on March 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting will be Wednesday at 9 a.m. PT. NSAC commission members will attend the meeting via phone, rather than the traditional in-person meeting in Las Vegas.

The UFC has already filed requests to host live events at its Apex facility in Las Vegas, including UFC 250 on June 6, scheduled to feature two-weight champion Amanda Nunes against Felicia Spencer. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified lab in Salt Lake City, has been working with NSAC officials on COVID-19 testing procedures in anticipation of the return of live events.

The UFC has already filed requests to host live events at its Apex facility in Las Vegas, on the dates of May 30 and June 6. Those events are expected to be UFC Fight Night, headlined by a welterweight fight between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns, and UFC 250, featuring two-weight champion Amanda Nunes against Felicia Spencer.

Top Rank Boxing has also requested to host live events on June 9 and June 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

All requests hinge on NSAC’s approval of new COVID-19 protocols, which include the stipulation of no live audiences. Nevada governor Steve Sisolak made the decision to close the state, including all casinos, in mid-March. The state started its multiphased reopening process on May 9.

The UFC, based in Las Vegas, has continued to hold events as its home state has been closed. The promotion held three live events in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 9, May 13 and May 16, with the support of the Florida government. One athlete scheduled to compete, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19 and were removed from the event.

UFC president Dana White has raved about the promotion’s handling of the three events and pointed to it as proof that live sports can return with proper precautionary measures.

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Bob Arum says Top Rank cards to resume in June, likely in Nevada

May 6, 2020

Steve KimESPN

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Wednesday that his company will begin putting on fight cards next month after being idle since February due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are coming back in June,” Arum told ESPN. “These will be shows that will be on ESPN and ESPN+. They will take place during the week and on weekends.”

Arum said his company is working closely with ESPN to determine the upcoming schedule.

“They’ll all be top fighters, really top fights,” Arum said. “Will there be a [Tyson] Fury-[Deontay] Wilder? No. But they’ll be some of our top fighters, like Jose Ramirez, he’ll be in the mix, various others, Teofimo [Lopez], Shakur [Stevenson], all of them. In other words, the fights will be similar as the fights we’ve been putting on ESPN and ESPN+.”

The events will not feature a live audience, as restrictions that ban large public gatherings are still in place.

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“Don’t kid yourself. For the rest of the summer, there won’t be a crowd,” Arum said. “I don’t anticipate — now, I don’t know — being able to do fights with any kind of crowd ’til the fourth quarter [of 2020].”

A few weeks ago, Arum expressed some interest in staging fights in Florida, where the WWE has been deemed “essential” by the governor’s office. But because Top Rank’s headquarters are located in Las Vegas, holding these first few events in Nevada makes the most logistical sense for the company, Arum said.

“That’s what we’re planning because it makes it easier for us. Our gym can be used for training,” Arum said. “We have hotels that we [can] be opening up, and there won’t be, initially, a big market of customers for rooms. They will have plenty of rooms available. These hotels have big ballrooms, which we could use to stage an event, and these ballrooms we could take for a two-month period, June and July, to put on events, maybe with an option to take them in August or September.”

One issue events will face is making sure all participants and their camps are sequestered and practicing social distancing, but Arum said Nevada helps answer that.

“Because of the amount of hotel rooms in Las Vegas and because of the steps taken by the hotels and casinos there to get a clean, sanitary environment that we can rely on — because we know the people — it would be our preference to do the events in Nevada,” Arum said.

“That doesn’t mean that we might not do some fights in California, which has a good commission. Andy [Foster, the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission] is a terrific guy to work with. And I know somebody like Jose [Ramirez] prefers to do his fight in California, even without an audience.”

Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, did not immediately respond for comment.

The most recent event promoted by Top Rank took place Feb. 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In that fight, Fury stopped Wilder in seven rounds in their rematch.

Most other promotional outfits have targeted the month of July for their returns.

“Everybody is working together. We’re going to do this,” Arum said. “We got word that Nevada will have a major testing facility at one of the hospitals in Las Vegas, which can handle many thousands of tests a day. So we’re working through everything. It’s not something that we’re experts in. We have to rely on the medical experts and so forth.

“But just now, we’re working closely, certainly in Nevada, with the commission and the medical experts, with the hotels, and we’ll be doing the same in California.”

Ramirez, who holds the WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles, has twice had his mandatory defense against Viktor Postol postponed due to the virus. The first was Feb. 1 in China, and the second was May 9 in Fresno, California.

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Nevada suspends all combat sports events until March 25

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) on Saturday voted to suspend all combat sports events in the state until March 25.

The emergency meeting was called in order to address the coronavirus outbreak that has affected many sports worldwide.

The next NSAC meeting is scheduled for March 25, and that is when commissioners will vote on the status of events after that date. NSAC executive director Bob Bennett was assigned the role of providing recommendations to the commission on how to move forward at the next meeting.

“I’ve been in constant contact with a litany of doctors and medical professionals and am intimately familiar with all professional and amateur sports events being suspended at this point in time for an undetermined period,” Bennett told ESPN. “I will continue to collect information and speak with various medical experts and be prepared to provide the information to the chairman and commissioners on March 25.”

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A popular amateur MMA event, Tuff-N-Uff, was canceled Saturday night in Las Vegas as a result of this vote. There are no major pro combat sport events affected at the moment, although two cards are currently scheduled just three days after the March 25 NSAC meeting.

On Thursday, UFC president Dana White announced that the promotion will be moving events scheduled for March 28 and April 11 to UFC headquarters in Las Vegas. A Showtime boxing card headlined by Luis Nery and Aaron Alameda is also scheduled for March 28 at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

It is unclear what measures those promotions will take given the short notice. The UFC typically flies in fighters on Tuesday prior to a Saturday bout. If that holds for the March 28 card, then fighters will already be in Las Vegas prepared to fight one day before the NSAC makes its decision on whether or not they will compete.

A request for comment from the UFC was not immediately returned Saturday.

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), another one of the big combat sports regulatory bodies in the United States, suspended all events through March 31 on Thursday. The NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLS and others have suspended games and tournaments due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Major League Baseball (MLB) has delayed the start of its season.

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Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame announces class of 2020

The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame on Tuesday unveiled the 2020 induction class — the Las Vegas shrine’s eighth — and it includes 10 fighters and four non-boxers, all of whom had fights in Nevada or were connected to the sport in the state during their careers.

Among the fighters to be elected are four men already enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York: Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, the first African American flyweight world champion; former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion Azumah Nelson, who is from Ghana and considered by many to be the greatest fighter from Africa; former junior middleweight and middleweight world titleholder Julian Jackson, among the greatest pure punchers in boxing history; and former featherweight world champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, the Southern California legend known for his all-action fights.

Also elected in the fighter category were Miguel Cotto, Puerto Rico’s only four-division world champion; former light heavyweight and super middleweight champion Andre Ward; former three-division champion James Toney; former two-time junior middleweight titleholder Fernando Vargas; former junior featherweight titlist and Las Vegas resident Clarence “Bones” Adams; and former two-time lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo, whose 10th-round knockout loss to Diego “Chico” Corrales in their 2005 title unification fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas is regarded by many as the greatest action fight in boxing history.

The non-boxer category includes the late Jose Sulaiman, who was president of the WBC for more than 40 years and established the Jose Sulaiman Boxer Fund that is administered by a Nevada Community Trust that has helped hundreds of fighters financially on an annual basis; Las Vegas resident and famed referee Carlos Padilla, who was the third man in the ring for the “Thrilla in Manila,” the third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, as well as fights involving Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield, among others; Las Vegas resident Lorenzo Fertitta, who served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission from 1996 to 2000; and Sammy Macias, the former chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and former president of the North American Boxing Federation.

The annual induction weekend will take place Aug. 7 and 8 at the Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa in Las Vegas.

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