Last night, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) concluded its second card (results here) out of a slated three for this week, and unsurprisingly concerns are still swirling about the promotion’s COVID-19 health and safety measures.
Fighters and cornermen were in the hotel lobby with no masks or face coverings as a scuffle nearly erupted (watch it) between Marvin Vettori and Karl Roberson. The face-offs that UFC claimed would be omitted prior to touching down in Jacksonville, Fla., once again happened anyway. And Dana White handled everyone again, as did the fighters.
In addition, Daniel Cormier — like Joe Rogan this past weekend at UFC 249 — interviewed fighters up close and personal.
So what is UFC’s “system?” Up until recently, only state and government officials were privy to what White and Co. submitted to secure approval from Florida to stage cage fights in the midst of a global pandemic. However, The New York Times — which White roasted at the post-fight press conference last night — obtained a copy of the 20-page document and ran with the headline, “U.F.C.’s Coronavirus Plan Is Careful. Its Enforcement Has Been Spotty.”
Check out the complete document below:
Here are a few deviations from the “Operations Plan” to consider:
The social distancing guidelines implemented will be at least as restrictive as those required by Federal, state and local regulations and guidelines. Only limited exceptions will be made where required for critical operations - for example, when two UFC athletes are present in the Octagon for a mixed martial arts bout.
The most egregious example was Jacara Souza, who was quarantined while on site; however, he took selfies with other fighters before his coronavirus test results returned positive.
All personnel (including personnel in certain “on-camera” roles, such as cutmen and cornermen) will be required to wear the face masks and gloves in connection with their job functions, including at the host hotel and at the Arena.
White — the most visible, vocal and active participant throughout the week — has never been seen on camera wearing a mask nor gloves.
There will be no face-to-face “in-Octagon”, post-fight or backstage interviews. Interviews with athletes will be conducted via headset with UFC interviewers or commentators who will be stationed in a separate Arena zone. This will allow our on-air talent to conduct interviews without being in the same room or in close contact with the interviewee.
We already mentioned Rogan and Cormier opting to enter the cage and interview fighters without personal protective equipment.
While last night’s card seemingly ran smoother than UFC 249 several days prior, some of the same failures in procedure were duplicated. Nevertheless, UFC President Dana White once again doubled down, claiming that the “system worked,” although he admitted at the post-fight press conference that he “didn’t want to get ahead of himself” with one more event planned for this weekend (Sat., May 16, 2020).
Indeed, it’s too soon to tell if these deviations will result in unnecessary sickness or trigger deeper issues. The next few weeks — if UFC continues to stage events as planned — will tell the real tale.
For better or worse.