After a monumental struggle from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) during a worldwide pandemic, UFC 249 is finally in the books. And with there being no other sports to talk about, the Internet is buzzing about the great night of fights from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. And, of course, UFC’s safety protocols on display during the event.
Those protocols were almost as hot of a discussion point as the Cejudo-Cruz stoppage. Every fist bump between Bruce Buffer and a fighter elicited a murmur of disapproval from Twitter, as did Joe Rogan getting right up next to fighters for post-fight interviews. And hey, we get it — (almost) everyone has got social distancing on the mind, so seeing people “break the bubble” causes an almost knee-jerk negative reaction.
During the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White was asked about some of the seemingly inconsistent distancing policies in effect, like splitting up the commentary team into separate booths, but still physically bringing them together at the start of the pay-per-view (PPV) to discuss the event.
“Yeah, obviously the whole social distancing thing and keeping people away from each other and everything ... everybody here was tested,” White said. “The people that are still here, we know are negative. I don’t know. You know? We’re just trying ... like I was saying earlier, we’re still figuring this whole thing out. This was the first one, it was a success. Wednesday will be better. Saturday will be better and so on and so forth.”
At the very end of UFC 249, Daniel Cormier revealed it was Joe Rogan who “threw a fit” and demanded in-cage interviews go on as usual.
“At least they let me do the post-fight interviews in the Octagon,” Rogan said.
May 10, 2020
“You threw a fit,” Cormier replied. “You threw a fit before the show. This is insane, everyone’s been tested, we’re all clean!”
“They were going to make me do them from like two yards away,” Rogan continued. “We’re all clean. Everyone’s been tested, but they were going to make me do interviews from 50 feet away. I’m like, ‘I can’t, I want to see them, look into their eyes.’”
Reports and graphic social media videos coming out of UFC 249 showed UFC performing extensive COVID-19 testing on all staff and athlete teams over fight week. But it’s worth noting that false negatives on COVID-19 tests are common, especially with asymptomatic carriers or newly infected people.
So is it wise to throw all social distancing to the wind once everyone’s locked in the arena on Saturday night? I’d say probably not. What constitutes a reasonable level of caution is up to experts to determine, and for UFC to try and implement effectively. Hopefully, next Wednesday and Saturday’s events feature more clear-cut distancing practices and less winging it, lest the next “Jacare” incident result in an outbreak.
For complete UFC 249 results and coverage click here.