Before we begin, two notes about the sports calendar, one cancellation and one rescheduling:
Monday, the BIG 3 basketball league announced that its 2020 season would be canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The 3-on-3, half-court basketball league, initially delayed from its June 20 start date because of recent world events, was to have played its fourth season in 2020.
However, the BIG 3 promised that normal operations would resume in 2021.
Second, the Belmont Stakes, normally the final event in horse racing’s Triple Crown, will begin this year’s Triple Crown on Saturday, June 20, two weeks beyond its original date.
Onward to today’s topic:
Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the sports calendar has been affected.
Major sports that were in-season at the time that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic were immediately put—and in many cases, still are—on hiatus.
In the case of the NCAA, all conference tournaments in basketball that had yet to determine a champion for an automatic berth in the then-upcoming 2020 Men’s Basketball Tournament were canceled entirely on March 12.
Later that same day, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that all remaining sporting events for the 2019-2020 season would be cancelled.
As another measure taken to stop the spread of the virus, the few live sporting events that have taken place in recent weeks, such as UFC Fight Night in Jacksonville on May 13 and 16, took place without a live audience.
States around the country still have stay-at-home orders in place, along with bans on mass gatherings, including sporting events, as part of them.
In a few states, bans on professional sports have ended or are about to end.
Arizona lifted its ban on professional sports last Saturday, four days removed from a May 12 executive order by Gov. Doug Ducey, who also relaxed his state’s stay-at-home order.
In response to Ducey lifting the ban, UFC President Dana White is targeting the state as an alternate location for the May 31 UFC Fight Night if Nevada does not lift its ban on combat sports.
California and Texas are soon joining the list of states ending their bans on professional sports.
On Monday, in addition to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressing the possibility of his state’s sports ban ending at the close of May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did the same.
In the case of California, holding pro sports without live audiences is part of stage 3 of the relaxation of restrictions.
For Texas, pro sports organizations can apply for a request from the Department of Health.
In both California and Texas, any MMA show held after the ban would be held with no audience present.
Now, then, what does this mean for the sport of mixed martial arts?
The road to a return of MMA is easier in California with Newsom’s latest announcement, as the California State Athletic Commission’s ban on combat sports is currently set to expire at the end of the month.
If California can start to hold sporting events without fans present following the ban and do so safely and without incident, CSAC would not have a problem lifting its ban on combat sports.
Further, CSAC was already going to sanction last Saturday’s original UFC Fight Night in San Diego before it was canceled due to California’ extension of its combat sports ban.
A return to action for MMA in Texas would have a bigger hurdle, its Department of Health.
If the Texas Department of Health allows an MMA show to be held, it’s going to be rescheduled in the case of the UFC, which has already held a pay-per-view there this year.
UFC 247 was held in Houston on Feb. 8, pre-pandemic, at Toyota Center.
UFC on ESPN 11 was scheduled to be held on June 27 in Austin but was postponed as a result of COVID-19.
The Tapology page for the June 27 event lists the card’s venue as to be announced, so stay tuned.
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