Sanford MMA coaches Henri Hooft and Greg Jones won’t be coaching fighters cageside during events held at the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, any time soon — at least not for the next three months.
That’s because the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation decided to suspend Hooft and Jones Thursday night for what they are citing as discipline for violating COVID-19 “bubble” protocols.
The Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort has been home to Bellator events since July and the promotion has created a bubble-like atmosphere with stringent protocols because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bellator 253 was the most recent Bellator event held at the Connecticut casino and took place Thursday night. But the protocol violation by Hooft and Jones occurred in the days leading up to the fight.
According to the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation director, Mike Mazzulli, Hooft and Jones both entered the hotel room of Jackson for training on Tuesday when all three were supposed to be quarantined in their respective rooms as they awaited their pending COVID-19 test results.
Mazzulli added that he learned about the incident via social media.
Hooft and Jones not only will be barred from coaching events at Mohegan for the next three months, but they also were each fined $500 for violating protocol, which Mazzulli said will come out of Jackson’s fight purse.
“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].”
In a statement given on Thursday after learning about his suspension, Hooft seemed confused about the decision and the severity of the punishment.
“I don’t know what this is about,” Hooft 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.”
This might not be ending here though.
Mazzulli has gone as far as to ask other commissions to support and uphold the suspension laid down by Mohegan. If other commissions were to decide to suspend Hooft and Jones, it could potentially affect the corners in one of the biggest upcoming UFC fights — Kamara Usman and Gilbert Burns, which is rumored for February.
Both Usman and Burns represent Sanford MMA but Usman has recently changed camps to train in Colorado. But Hooft and Jones are expected to be in Burns’ corner if they are permitted to do so.
This Mazzulli guy isn’t messing around and is not happy about his protocols being violated. He even went as far as to say that if the same team violated COVID-19 protocols again, he will suspend the offenders for one year.
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.