UFC eyes Texas fight night after mask mandate, occupancy limits lifted

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UFC 220: Miocic v Ngannou

BOSTON, MA – JANUARY 20: Stipe Miocic fights Francis Ngannou in their Heavyweight Championship fight during UFC 220 at TD Garden on January 20, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The UFC is looking at the possibility of holding a fight in Texas in what would be its first fight in the United States outside of Las Vegas in almost a year. This comes as Texas reopened businesses to 100% capacity Wednesday and ended its statewide mask mandate.

Officials with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation tell KXAN that the UFC contacted their office last week about the possibility of holding an event in Texas. At first the UFC was looking at holding an event as early as March 27, but TDLR in an updated email Thursday morning said that’s now off the table. The UFC could still hold an event in April.

March 27 is the date of a heavyweight title rematch between current titleholder Stipe Miocic and challenger Francis Ngannou.

Holding an event in March was already going to be a tight turnaround. The UFC was looking at venues in Dallas and Houston, according to the TDLR, but there are only 20 days left in the month, and the TDLR says “paperwork generally must be submitted at least 21 days before a planned event.”

UFC President Dana White confirmed he has asked about holding events at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and the Toyota Center in Houston. He told BT Sport that Dallas immediately said no. However, AT&T Stadium is in Arlington, not Dallas, and Monster Jam is currently slated to take place at AT&T Stadium on March 27.

The Texas Rangers announced Wednesday it will hold its home opener April 5 in front of a 100% capacity crowd across the street at Globe Life Field, so it seems unlikely Arlington would have told the UFC no but MLB yes.

In a wide-ranging 21-minute interview with BT Sport, White addressed his desire to hold an event in Texas and said at the time he could know more “today,” meaning Wednesday:

Caroline Pearce of BT Sport: “With the announcement that the state of Texas is now opening up, no mandate, no restrictions regarding COVID, stadiums could be full, you were on the phone with Texas as you said, saying, ‘We want to be first and we want to fill out a stadium.’ Dallas said no. How does that conversation go?”

UFC President Dana White: “Didn’t even get the sentence out to Dallas and they said no. Which is crazy. Texas… let’s just say a lot of people move to Texas. They’re going to screw up Texas now, too, like they did some other states. But Houston, we’re talking. I actually talked to the governor of Texas yesterday. He’s super supportive in helping us put on events. Obviously he wants it, too. And the mayor of Houston has been great so far. I’m hoping it’s all going to work out. I want to go there as soon as possible.

Pearce: So what has to happen to push it over the line?

White: “I’ll know today.”

White goes on to say that the UFC has stringent guidelines for COVID-19 and of all sports leagues, they’re the one that can do this safely.

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