UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler was recently booked to throw down against fellow Top 5 action fighter Justin Gaethje as part of the upcoming UFC 268 pay-per-view (PPV) event this November at Madison Square Garden in New York.
There’s just one teeny, tiny little problem.
Chandler, 35, has yet to receive a vaccination for COVID-19, which could put his “Highlight” fight in jeopardy if “The Empire State” moves forward with plans to enforce a vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, and performance venues beginning Aug. 16.
UFC 268 is scheduled for Nov. 6.
“I will not be vaccinated at that point,” Chandler told his Instagram followers (transcribed by MMA Junkie). “It’s not that I’m anti-vax. It’s not that I don’t believe in the vaccine, necessarily. I’m just not going to get the vaccine until it’s 100-percent FDA approved. We’ve had hundreds of clinical trials, just like we had the vaccines that my son has had – measles and chicken pox and all of the vaccines that have been around for 100 years that have been proven. We shall see. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
After a short delay in early 2020, which shut down most of the sports world, UFC promptly reworked its live events schedule to stage MMA cards at closed facilities like APEX, or inside quarantine bubbles like “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
The safety precautions were effective, but not foolproof.
The promotion recently welcomed fans back to arenas, including this weekend’s UFC 265 event in Houston. That said, the future of public gatherings remains in question after the rise of COVID mutations, including the oft-mentioned “delta variant.”
Chandler does not sound overly optimistic.
“The chances of the UFC being able to sell out Madison Square Garden with only people that are vaccinated really cuts down their ability to sell out Madison Square Garden,” Chandler continued. “I think it calls into question if Madison Square Garden will actually happen. But as I said, I’m not anti-vaccine. I think vaccines are effective. I think it’s everybody’s choice whether they want to take the vaccine. I won’t be vaccinated by Nov. 6, so I won’t be able to perform or entertain at Madison Square Garden.”
UFC has yet to comment on New York’s upcoming vaccine mandate.