Jacare Souza and cornermen test positive for COVID-19, bout removed from UFC 249 fight card

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Uriah Hall vs Jacare Souza UFC 249 face off
Uriah Hall vs Jacare Souza UFC 249 face off

What everyone involved had hoped wouldn't happen, has happened. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza became the first UFC fighter to test positive for COVID-19 ahead of a scheduled bout.

UFC broadcast partner ESPN broke the news on Friday. UFC Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN that the fight promotion intended to move forward with the event as planned, minus the Jacare vs. Uriah Hall bout, of course.

Jacare reportedly drove from Orlando, where he trained for the bout, to Jacksonville. Although he was asymptomatic, he notified UFC staff that a family member may have tested positive. Like the other fighters scheduled to compete on Saturday, he was tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. He underwent daily health checks and appeared in a mask and gloves at Friday's weigh-in, maintaining a lengthy distance from Hall during their staredown.

According to a UFC statement sent to MMAWeekly.com, Jacare and two of his cornermen tested positive.

"UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of COVID-19.  As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment," read the statement.

"From their arrival earlier in the week until their departure today, Souza and his cornermen followed UFC health and safety protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing personnel protective equipment, and self-isolating whenever possible.

"There have been no other positive COVID-19 tests reported from the remaining athletes participating in UFC 249."

The Jacare vs. Hall bout was pulled from the fight card, but the UFC has the approval of the Florida State Athletic Commission for the remainder of the card to proceed as planned on Saturday.

Campbell told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that he had a quote from FSAC executive director Patrick Cunningham, who said, "We're very impressed with your entire process. You have our full support. We have no reservations about the event going on tomorrow. We think this is the template for combat sports moving forward."

UFC President Dana White later told Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that while the ideal would have been for no one to test positive, he felt like the system they put in place ultimately worked.

"If you do 1,200 tests, it's not that unexpected to have one come back positive," he said. If anything, he noted to Hill that they have good protocols in place.

UFC Statement on Jacare Souza

The middleweight bout between Uriah Hall vs Jacaré Souza will no longer be on the UFC 249 preliminary card due to one of Souza’s COVID-19 tests indicating a positive result.  In addition, COVID-19 tests for Souza’s two cornermen were also flagged as positive.  UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of COVID-19.  As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment.

From their arrival earlier in the week until their departure today, Souza and his cornermen followed UFC health and safety protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing personnel protective equipment, and self-isolating whenever possible.

There have been no other positive COVID-19 tests reported from the remaining athletes participating in UFC 249.

The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event. 

Saturday's UFC 249 card, which airs live on pay-per-view and is headlined by a battle for the interim lightweight title between No. 1-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson and No. 4-ranked Justin Gaethje will proceed as scheduled with 11 bouts.

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