UFC 249 will go ahead tonight, despite middleweight Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and two of his cornermen testing positive for COVID-19 after yesterday’s weigh-ins. His scheduled prelims bout against Uriah Hall has consequently been scrapped.
Souza (26-8-0) was immediately pulled from the event in Jacksonville, Florida – but the UFC still plan on moving forward with the rest of their pay-per-view lineup.
During a statement, the promotion said: “UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of COVID-19.
“As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment.”
Souza, who lives and trains in Florida and drove to Jacksonville on Wednesday, informed UFC officials upon arrival about a family member who might have been infected with the coronavirus. At that point, according to them, Souza was tested and monitored.
The 40-year-old made weight during Friday’s official weigh-ins and participated in a distanced staredown with Hall, wearing a mask and gloves, before receiving his result.
It led to suggestions he was aware of a high probability that he had contracted COVID-19, despite this video revealing he ignored social distancing rules to stay two metres apart:
Nonetheless, all of the other 23 athletes scheduled to compete on tonight’s card tested negative. After conferring with the Florida State Boxing Commission, UFC officials decided the event would continue regardless – though Hall misses out at the last-minute.
The company’s president Dana White revealed one positive test isn’t a surprise, saying:
“We administered 1,200 tests this week, on 300 people. It’s not unexpected one person would test positive – the system works.
And what’s good about this, is now we know Jacare tested positive, he’s doing what he needs to do and we’re in a position to help him if he needs it.”
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reached out to Uriah Hall’s camp, who said they were uncomfortable commenting on the matter – still digesting the news:
“Uriah had actually moved out of his house, he had been living in the gym for his entire training camp to get ready for this thing, they were excited, thought he was ready to go. To get this [cancellation] at the very end, I think he’s still processing it.”
Hall, 35, has since tweeted his well wishes to Souza and his camp.
White also told ESPN that this latest development will not impact the company’s forthcoming events, scheduled to take place next Wednesday and on May 16.
UFC 249’s main card begins at 3am (UK time) on Sunday, after the prelims which begin at 11pm tonight. This will mark their first live event since March 14, taking place without a live audience and promises to be an intriguing watch.
Tonight’s revised card is as follows:
Lightweight: Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje
Bantamweight: Henry Cejudo (c) vs Dominick Cruz
Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Featherweight: Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar
Heavyweight: Greg Hardy vs Yorgan de Castro
Welterweight: Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis
Heavyweight: Aleksei Oleinik vs Fabricio Werdum
Women’s strawweight: Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson
Welterweight: Vicente Luque vs Niko Price
Featherweight: Bryce Mitchell vs Charles Rosa
Light heavyweight: Ryan Spann vs Sam Alvey