A 13-fight hybrid card scheduled for Saturday in Topeka, Kansas, has been moved to Abilene and will not involve any testing for COVID-19 beyond temperature checks and questionnaires.
A few weeks ago, fighters on the card — which will feature boxing, kickboxing, bareknuckle fighting combat, jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts — were given a COVID-19 participation questionnaire by the Kansas Athletic Commission. Once at the weigh-in facility, fighters will have their temperatures taken. They are asked to wear masks while in Kansas and adhere to other social distancing protocols.
Saturday’s show, originally scheduled for the hangar at Forbes Field, will take place without a live audience at the Never Surrender MMA gym in Abilene, Kansas.
“Basically our goal is to ensure that no one who has symptoms of COVID-19 gets close to the other participants,” Dr. Matthew Bohm, the head physician for the Kansas commission, told ESPN. “So from a standpoint of the way we run medical clinics now is that when people come to the front door, they aren’t allowed in the building until they answer questions.”
“Now, two things happen,” he continued. “They have their temperature taken prior to entering the building. If they do not have a temperature, then they answer the questions, like, ‘Have you been tested for COVID? Do you have a fever, cough, headache, shortness of breath, sore throat, chills?’ So we ask them that, and if they’ve had COVID before or if they have tested positive and when they’ve tested positive. We go through the standardized testing.”
Once this process is finished, the combatants will be allowed into the fight facility. Bohm noted that fighters were instructed to follow social distancing guidelines and team quarantine-type guidelines beginning two weeks prior to the event.
Each training team will be limited to four individuals. Everyone involved in the fight — fighters, promotional team members, production staff, commission members — must abide by the established regulations.
Adam Roorbach, the boxing commissioner for the state, said the plan is for portions of the card to be brought to the venue. Then, as they finish with their assignments, another batch of fighters will be brought into the venue to keep the number of people inside the building as low as possible at any given time.
“It’s going to be a bit of a logistical nightmare for the fighters and uncomfortable for their corners, but it’s just what has to be done at this point,” Roorbach told ESPN.
When asked about the lack of coronavirus testing, Roorbach said, “That’s why we’re doing the two-week pre-fight questionnaire. But that said, we are following the state and county guidelines. So we’ll follow the guidelines that have been dictated, and then we’re adding the temperature testing and the screening guidelines.”
John Carden, the head of Carden Combat Sports, which is putting on the card, told ESPN, “Nobody has expressed any concerns toward me so far.”
Carden said only three fighters are flying to Kansas.
Two of the boxers on the card are bantamweight Shawn Simpson (11-0, 3 KOs) and junior lightweight Desmond Jarmon (8-0, 4 KOs), who are training in Omaha, Nebraska. The duo told ESPN that they have no concerns about the lack of coronavirus testing.
“I feel like if they take everybody’s temperature, then everything should be good,” said Simpson, who faces Dakota Lester (3-9-1, 3 KOs) in a scheduled six-rounder.
Jarmon, who is lined up against Mike Fowler (7-27, 2 KOs), said, “I feel everything’s going to be OK as long as everyone keeps their social distancing.”
Both boxers said they have adhered to the pre-fight guidelines and are excited to get back into the ring after extended layoffs.
“I’m comfortable with it, knowing that as long as there are precautions taken with who’s coming on the card, they limit the amount of people who will be in attendance — even those working the corners. I’m fine with it,” Jerry Casarez, who co-manages Simpson and Jarmon, told ESPN. “With this being one of the first cards out, we’re just trying to limit the amount of time the fighters are exposed to being around anybody else.”
Carden, who said the event was moved because not all of the leasees at Forbes Field signed off on it, told ESPN that he is already planning another promotion for July.