It was a bit shocking to see UFC move toward having fights during the coronavirus outbreak. After all, this isn’t a non-contact sport like golf or tennis that has a lot of separation between competitors.
Nearly every scheduled event has gone off without a hitch, but that doesn’t mean that UFC shouldn’t plan to be a little more cautious going forward. Now, there will be stricter testing guidelines before returning to Las Vegas this weekend – the event will be held at the UFC Apex Arena located at UFC headquarters.
As per sources, these guidelines will be a lot stricter than the ones that were done for the three events in Jacksonville, Florida. All fighters will be required to take two COVID-19 antigen oropharyngeal swab tests prior to competing upon checking into the specified hotel and one more time after Friday’s weigh-ins. For the first test, the UFC is mandating every person that gets a test to self-isolate in the hotel until their results are given.
According to the official memo, “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.” Following the second swab test after the Friday weigh-in, those tested must self-isolate within the hotel and stay inside overnight until their scheduled departure to the UFC Apex on Saturday afternoon.
“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,” said the memo. “You also should not have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp.”
If the test result is negative, the fighter and members of their corner may travel to the event. If not, they will have to wait for further instructions from the UFC medical team.
In addition to those rules, the memo also stated that UFC’s Performance Institute will be closed during this time – fighters will have to train on their own. There is no mention of whether or not there will be daily temperature checks or antibody testing like there was for the events in Jacksonville.
Then there is the matter of legal documentation. The UFC is asking fighters and cornermen to sign a HIPAA authorization form to allow the testing lab to share the test results with those close to the fight.
Prior to the May 9 event in Jacksonville, Ronald “Jacare” Souza was scheduled to fight but tested positive (along with two of his cornermen) a day before the match. Souza would be removed from the fight – and the hotel – once his positive test came out.
The May 9 event in Jacksonville was the first UFC bout since the COVID-19 lockdown. Fighters on the card ended up taking two swab tests, which actually wasn’t the initial plan. The reason for the second test was because the initial results weren’t available in the time before the fight.