Fighters to be tested for COVID-19 ahead of UFC 249


Fighters and their corner people will undergo mandatory medical screenings and COVID-19 tests ahead of Saturday’s UFC 249 pay-per-view event in Jacksonville, Fla.

UFC is the first major American sporting enterprise to return to action since the pandemic brought everything to a halt in mid-March. The event will be held without fans at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

ESPN reported Monday that the UFC will administer both the diagnostic swab coronavirus test and the antibody test when participants begin arriving on Tuesday.

After passing through the medical checkpoint, they will receive credentials to be worn at all times at the host hotel. Fighters and corners will be asked to avoid mingling in large groups and to try to self-isolate until their test results come back.

Daily temperature readings and symptom checks will take place, and the teams will be provided private workout rooms for training and cutting weight. Meals will be delivered to the fighters’ hotel rooms and the housekeeping staff will be equipped with hospital-grade sanitizer and personal protective gear.

“In today’s world, it’s as safe as possible,” said Dr. Donald Muzzi, who will be the chief ringside physician for the Florida State Boxing Commissions. “We’re living in a new normal.”

UFC 249 is the organization’s first event since March 14, a show in Brasilia, Brazil, that was held without spectators. Six subsequent events were canceled due to the pandemic.

In Saturday’s main event, Tony Ferguson will fight Justin Gaethje for the UFC interim lightweight title.

Other precautions include limiting the number of arena staff and media members in attendance. Muzzi told ESPN that organizers have discussed having the referees wear mask and eye protection.

“This is always going to be a work in progress,” Muzzi said. “And it’s going to continue to be that way. When this event is over, we’re going to step back and see what we’ve learned. This is gonna continue to evolve. It’s like a fight — we have to bob and weave. We have to adjust to the opponent, which in this case is the virus.”

—Field Level Media