Two prominent mixed martial arts coaches are being disciplined for violation of "bubble" COVID-19 protocols.
The Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation is suspending Sanford MMA coaches Henri Hooft and Greg Jones for three months and fining both $500 for breaking quarantine Tuesday during Bellator 253 fight week, Mohegan director Mike Mazzulli said Thursday.
According to Mazzulli, Hooft and Jones both entered the hotel room of their fighter, Jason Jackson, for training when all three were supposed to be quarantining in their rooms pending results of COVID-19 tests. The actions, Mazzulli said, violated the protocols set in place by Mohegan Sun and Bellator for their fight week "bubble." Mazzulli said he found out about the violation on social media.
"It's not just about fighter safety," Mazzulli told ESPN. "It's about public safety. The only reason Mr. Jackson was able to fight is because both [coaches] came back negative [for the coronavirus]."
Hooft issued a statement later Thursday and expressed confusion over being disciplined.
"I don't know what this is about," he said. "I am 41-0 in COVID tests. And whatever they're doing, it's so weird. We will talk to my partners at Sanford MMA to see what's going on."
Bellator has called the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, its home since July with bubble-like regulations in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jackson beat Benson Henderson in the Bellator 253 co-main event Thursday night. Mazzulli said the $500 fines for Hooft and Jones will come out of Jackson's purse.
Mazzulli is also asking other commissions in the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports to honor his suspension of Hooft and Jones. If other commissions do suspend the two coaches, it could affect at least one major UFC title fight. A UFC welterweight title bout between champion Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns has been rumored for Feb. 13, though is not official. Both Usman and Burns represent Sanford MMA in Florida and Hooft and Jones are likely to be in Burns' corner for that bout.
Mazzulli said he has already forwarded the suspensions to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The UFC has been running all its domestic shows in Las Vegas since the beginning of the pandemic.
"It's my only hope that all members of the Association of Boxing Commissions adhere to this suspension," said Mazzulli, a former ABC president.
Mazzulli added that if the same team violates COVID-19 protocols again, he will suspend the offenders for one year.