UFC 249 was shaping up to be one of the first mainstream live sporting events since the outbreak of the coronavirus, but all that has been thrown into doubt just a day before the event.
One of the fighters, light heavyweight brawler Ronaldo ‘J’acare’ Souza, tested positive for the coronavirus just over 24 hours before the first fight was scheduled to get underway.
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UFC president Dana White has continually insisted he will host fights amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of nearly 80,000 Americans and infected more than 1.2 million.
Souza has been ruled out of the event, but the rest of the UFC 249 card will proceed as planned in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Brazilian fighter had been training in Orlando, just over 200km away from Jacksonville.
When he arrived at the Jacksonville venue, Souza informed officials a member of his family had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Souza was then tested and reportedly isolated, though he weighed in and appeared in pictures with UFC president Dana White on Friday before his positive test came back. Souza was wearing gloves and a mask during his weigh-in and faceoff.
UFC officials, per ESPN, worked with Florida athletic officials about the status of UFC 249 as a whole after the positive test. They determined that it can go forward “because the system worked.”
Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje are set to highlight the card in an interim lightweight title bout.
Dana White desperate for UFC 249 to go ahead
White has been trying to hold UFC 249 for quite some time now, repeatedly ignoring advice from medical experts and state mandates after the event’s initial location — the Barclays Center in New York — canceled on him due to the coronavirus outbreak. He even tried to hold it on tribal land in California last month after several other options failed before ESPN and Disney finally shut him down.
After most of Florida reopened and deemed sports as essential businesses, however, White got it and two others scheduled.
He seemed very confident about the event on Friday, too, and even said that President Donald Trump will be watching to use UFC 249 as an example for how to open the rest of the country despite the pandemic still raging.
“His whole philosophy was let's get sports back first, figure out how to do that safely,” White said. “Then let's start figuring out how do you get people back in the office? How do you get people in cubicles? And, then how do you get kids back in school?"
“So, this is something we've been working on and yes, he's absolutely watching what we're doing this weekend.”
With Yahoo Sports US