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APEX facility to stage UFC’s return to action

Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has said the mixed martial arts promotion will stage its events at its UFC APEX facility for the “foreseeable future”, while Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, has said the state is open to a proposal for it to become home to the start of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season.

White is seeking to make the UFC the world’s first major sports organisation to return to a normal schedule amid COVID-19 and his comments come just days after the promotion was forced to postpone its UFC 249 event, which had been scheduled for April 18.

Last week, White said that he was confident the event would go ahead at an undisclosed venue, adding that he was planning to secure a private island to host subsequent fights over the coming months.

However, UFC 249 and subsequent fights were postponed until further notice at the request of broadcast partner ESPN. UFC said in a statement that it had been “fully prepared” to proceed with UFC 249, adding that it looked forward to resuming its live events schedule “as soon as possible”.

The UFC opened its APEX facility, located next the organisation’s headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, back in June and White told the Variety website yesterday (Tuesday): “We built the APEX facility next door just in time to save the day from this pandemic. Live fights will be produced out of there starting next month and for the foreseeable future.”

UFC APEX (pictured) contains more than 50,000 square feet of production space and over 70,000 square feet of office space. It has built-in, advanced production capabilities with an arena space that can be configured to accommodate a variety of live events, including other sports competitions, concerts, stage shows and esports tournaments. The arena can also be converted into a sound stage for use as a rehearsal space for entertainment acts booked throughout Las Vegas.

Earlier on Tuesday, White told ESPN that the UFC was planning a fight card for May 9, when UFC 250 was scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but did not confirm where the event would take place. The UFC has previously been forced to postpone events on March 21, March 28 and April 11, along with Saturday’s scheduled card, due to COVID-19.

The state of Nevada is currently under a stay-at-home order, which was extended through to April 30 by Governor Steve Sisolak last week. Variety, citing an individual with knowledge of the situation, said the UFC is expecting these restrictions to be eased within the coming month to allow for events to be held behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, Ducey has said Arizona is willing to host all 30 MLB teams, when conditions allow for the start of the season. It emerged last week that MLB is considering a plan to stage all of its games in Arizona as it weighs up its options to begin the 2020 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MLB season had been due to start on March 26 but this has been pushed back until mid-May at the earliest due to COVID-19. MLB teams and the league’s players’ association (MLBPA) held a call last week to discuss potential plans, which are said to include a model whereby all 30 franchises could be hosted at 10 spring training ballparks, plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field and several college facilities.

“Arizona, at the right time, is very open minded to hosting whatever Major League Baseball would like from the state,” Ducey said yesterday, according to the Associated Press news agency. “At the time that it would be appropriate for public health, if Arizona were in a position to reopen, we have the facilities that are here.”

“We have the hotel space that is here. We all want to make certain that the metrics and the data are proper before we’re able to go forward, but I think two words that would allow the country and the state of Arizona to know that things were headed back to normal would be: Play ball!”

Ducey added that he had discussed the all-Arizona option with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “There’s a number of different scenarios,” the governor said. “I think the first scenario that was talked about was the idea of these clubs coming, being in hotels and in a way, having their own stay-at-home orders whether it either be at the hotel, or inside the stadium, without fans. It’s something that Arizona is open minded to, and I’m open minded to.”

Image: UFC