The UFC will resume service this weekend
After a two-month hiatus, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will resume service this weekend. Mixed martial arts’ premier promotion will return to action with their fourth pay-per-view card of the year, UFC 249.
Topping the bill at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida will be an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.
The UFC’s fourth pay-per-view of the year was initially scheduled to take place last month but ended up being rescheduled due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, which has wreaked havoc with the global sporting calendar.
COVID-19 decimated the promotion’s spring calendar, with six shows falling by the wayside.
Given the devastating effect the virus has had in America, which has recorded over 75,000 deaths, there are understandably serious concerns over the safety of the event.
UFC 249 will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida
Most of those concerns stemmed from Dana White’s reluctance to shed light on the UFC’s plans to prevent their fighters, staff and everyone connected with the event from contracting the virus.
As they have done so often, the UFC have adapted to the current climate and have made significant changes to their usual fight week protocol.
Here’s everything you need to know about the preventative measures taken by the promotion:
Will UFC 249 be taking place behind closed doors?
This weekend’s card, and indeed all of those scheduled for the foreseeable future, will be taking place behind closed doors.
Only the fighters, referee, commentators, cameramen, cornermen and other essential staff members will be permitted to enter the arena on fight night.
Less than half of the 300 staff members required to operate the arena will be working.
UFC 249 will take place in an empty arena
The athletes competing on UFC 249 have already undergone rigorous coronavirus testing.
Both swab and antibody tests were carried out upon the fighters arriving at the athlete’s hotel. Further testing will be conducted throughout the week.
It’s understood the UFC has a total of 1200 testing kits at their disposal for their next three cards, all of which will take place in Jacksonville.
Additional fighter and staff testing
Per a UFC email, the promotion will test fighters and staff members every day.
Daily checks will include testing for elevated temperatures and questions about coronavirus symptoms.
In addition, the UFC will assign fighters individual medical staff members to administer treatment. Both parties will have to wear masks during consultations.
Fighters have also been told they must shower before interacting with medical staff.
Fighters competing at UFC 249 will be allowed to have their compliment of cornermen
The official weigh-ins will still take place, although fighters will be given individual workout rooms and personal saunas to cut weight. It’s currently not known if the UFC will still have their traditional ceremonial weigh-ins, although White has alluded they will still take place.
Quarantine before and after the event?
Once fighters and their respective teams have arrived at the hotel, they will be required to stay their as much as possible to prevent bringing the virus into the building.
Fighters, however, are permitted to exercise outside the hotel so long as they observe social distancing guidelines. It’s unclear if the UFC wants all those involved on the card to self-isolate after returning home.
Locker room protocol
Only two fighters and their respective cornermen will be allowed in the locker room before the fights get underway.
Traditionally, up to five fighters and their respective teams will share the same locker room.
Fighters will also only be permitted to enter the locker rooms 90 minutes before they’re scheduled to compete.
Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje serves as UFC 249’s main event
Additional measures being implemented to prevent the virus from spreading
Hotel staff have been issued personal protective equipment and instructed to use hospital-grade sanitiser.
Commentators Joe Rogan, Daniel Cormier and Jon Anik will sit at separate tables from each other.
The UFC have also done away with midweek photoshoots and face-offs.