UFC Updates COVID-19 Protocol Ahead of Saturday’s Card

By Tristen Critchfield May 25, 2020
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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is changing a few things regarding COVID-19 safety guidelines ahead of this weekend’s event.

While many of the protocols in place are the same as they were during the promotion’s three events in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 9, 13 and 16, a few key things have changed in regards to testing and social distancing procedures. UFC on ESPN 9 is expected to be held at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, making the organization’s first event in Nevada since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

According to a memo (initially obtained by MMAjunkie.com) sent by the UFC to its athletes, fighters will receive two COVID-19 antigen oropharyngeal swab tests — one upon their arrival at the host hotel and another after weigh-ins on Friday. After the initial test, fighters are required to self-isolate within their hotel.

"This means you should not leave the Athlete Hotel or have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp until you have received your test result,” the memo states.

Those who test negative will be allowed to continue with fight week activities, while those who test positive will be required to remain in their rooms until further instructions are given. After the second test, fighters and their teams must remain in self isolation overnight until they are ready to leave for the UFC Apex on Saturday.

"During this time, no athletes or cornermen will be permitted to leave the Athlete Hotel without express prior approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission," the memo reads. "You also should not have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp.”

As with the first test, if the result is negative, fighters and their teams are free to head to the UFC Apex for the event; if it is positive, they must await instructions from UFC medical staff. Additionally, the UFC Performance Institute will not be available during fight week.

Prior to UFC 249, Ronaldo Souza and two cornerman tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, Souza’s bout vs. Uriah Hall was canceled and the fighter and his team were place in isolation at a location separate from the host hotel. While the Brazilian veteran was asymptomatic, he reportedly informed UFC officials that he might have been in contact with someone who likely had COVID-19 prior to his arrival in Jacksonville. Souza also participated in weigh-ins before his positive test came to light and was seen interacting in the fighter hotel with other athletes. At that time, the UFC did not have the same social distancing guidelines in place that it has implemented for Saturday’s card.

UFC on ESPN 9 is expected to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday and is headlined by a welterweight clash between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. The card airs on ESPN and ESPN+ beginning at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. Advertisement
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