The UFC is in Arizona for the first time in February 2019 for the UFC 263 ESPN + streaming pay-per-view card on Saturday. The Arizona Boxing and MMA Commission is overseeing the event, which will be spearheaded by a middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori. In the co-main event, the flyweight kingpin Deiveson Figueiredo meets Brandon Moreno. Both competitions are rematches. A review of the Arizona Boxing and MMA Commission’s MMA rules raises several concerns about pre-fight medical requirements for contestants.
Arizona does well on blood tests (HIV, hepatitis B surface antigen, and hepatitis C antibodies) with the California Athletic Commission (CSAC), which is one of the top sports commissions in the world for athlete requirements. Negative and non-reactive results are acceptable), physical, and eye exam requirements. California does not require that blood tests be done for more than a month from the date of application, Arizona does not. Medical tests in Arizona expire on December 31 of the year they are taken, while those in California are good for one year.
California requires an EKG test for all fighters. Arizona requires an EKG only for fighters over 36. The California EKG is unlimited unless the commission requests a new one on a case-by-case basis.
Arizona does not require radiologic exams for fighters under 40. California requires a non-contrast brain MRI and GRE technique must also be included. The MRI is valid for five years.
Like the EKG and MRI, California requires fighters to submit a neurological exam that is valid for 15 months. Arizona doesn’t require a neurological exam for fighters.
Arizona requires every fighter over the age of 36 to appear before the commission, which then makes a licensing decision.
Arizona has issued an “Unarmed Combat Sports COVID-19 Protocol” that came into effect on May 12, 2021. It is a three-page document.
The state requires the UFC to provide an operational plan for:
1) Recommended guidelines for physical distancing
2) Protective / preventive measures and equipment
3) Tests and daily screening procedures
4) Isolation guidelines
5) positive test procedures
6) Cleaning procedure
7) Personnel requirements
8) Weighing and event walkout procedures
9) Allocation of changing rooms and cleaning procedures
10) Post-incident follow-up procedures.
The commission requires a negative COVID-19 test for entry into any areas that the commission identifies as restricted. These areas are not listed in the document.
The Commission will review the temperatures of all event-related staff, “starting 72 hours prior to arrival at the venue or upon arrival at the host hotel, whichever comes first”.
Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who test positive “will be disqualified and / or removed from the area for quarantine or referred to a doctor for immediate medical attention. The commission will notify the Arizona Department of Health Services (“AZDHS”) of any person who tests positive, including positive serological results. “
In fighters who tested positive for COVID-19. The commission will medically suspend them until cleared by a doctor.
The UFC will be responsible for expenses related to testing, PPE equipment, and cleaning supplies for the event. The commission also requires the UFC to ensure sterilization of the venue, fighter hotel, transportation, and all shared areas.
In addition to the commission’s requirements, there is a list of recommendations that include an isolation plan for positive COVID-19 tests of non-local staff and a 14-day post-event follow-up with athletes, cornermen and staff to ensure there are no new ones Symptoms have developed. The commission recommends that athletes self-isolate for (14) days after the event, even if the test results are negative, to ensure that no new symptoms develop.
Although the state’s licensing program has some loopholes, the COVID-19 protocol appears robust and detailed.
UFC 263 takes place on June 12th at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The main card streams on ESPN + pay-per-view follow the preliminary rounds on ESPN and ESPN + and the early preliminary rounds on ESPN + and UFC Fight Pass.