We're still two months away from the UFC's debut on the much-hyped Fox Sports 1 cable channel, but if a report from Tuesday morning's Boston Herald is any indication, the show could be in danger of not happening at all.
State red tape could knock out a blockbuster fight card slated for Boston Garden later this summer as government officials are refusing the UFC’s request to relax rules barring foreign-born fighters from hitting the octagon without Social Security numbers.
The Massachusetts law has been in place since the sport was first legalized in 2009. Under the rules, state officials are not allowed to issue a fighter's license without a social security card. That poses a problem for fighters such as Mauricio Rua, Thiago Alves, Yuri Alcantara and Akira Corrassani, all of whom are currently scheduled to appear on the Boston card, and all of whom would not be able to do so without a social security card.
Rua is slated to face Chael Sonnen in the evening's main event.
The federal government has a provision in place where a foreign worker may receive a temporary social security card after waiting through a 10-day grace period.
Terrell Harris, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety—the branch of the government that regulates combat sports in Massachusetts—said that the UFC asked the state for a one-time exemption that would allow all of the foreign fighters currently scheduled to appear on the August 17 card to compete without obtaining social security cards.
"They’ve approached us and asked us if we could make exceptions to the law for them,” Harris said. "But the law is the law. The law doesn’t allow us to make exceptions.”
UFC officials had no comment at the time of this writing, but this story will be updated to reflect any official comments we receive from them.
UPDATE: The UFC has issued an official statement regarding the matter:
There were some questions that surfaced regarding licensing requirements for mixed martial artists and boxers to have social security numbers in order to compete in the state of Massachusetts. Last week, these requirements were brought to UFC’s attention and we immediately began working to ensure that all athletes affected by this are in full compliance. We are continuing to work on this and anticipate a positive outcome.