UFC 249 was supposed to set an example for all other sports leagues. If handled well, the event — one of the first to take place amid the coronavirus pandemic — could have been a blueprint for other leagues to follow.
While UFC 249 went off without many hitches, the event wasn’t exactly safe. UFC deviated from a number of safety procedures it was supposed to follow during the event, according to Kevin Draper of the New York Times.
The Times acquired a 25-page document that outlined all the health and safety precautions UFC was expected to take during UFC 249. Commentator Joe Rogan was a major part of those deviations, as he insisted on shaking hands with every fighter, including a bloodied Justin Gaethje.
On Saturday at U.F.C. 249, Gaethje and Rogan shouldn’t have touched, let alone stood within six feet of each other. There were supposed to be “no face-to-face ‘in-Octagon’ post-fight or backstage interviews,” according to the plan; instead interviews were to be conducted “via headset with U.F.C. interviewers or commentators who will be stationed in a separate Arena zone.”
The U.F.C. said ahead of the event that it would not permit interviews inside the Octagon during U.F.C. 249.
Wrapping up the televised event, the analyst Daniel Cormier explained how Rogan had received permission to do interviews that violated social distancing guidelines. “You threw a fit before the show,” Cormier said to Rogan. “This is insane. Everybody’s been tested, we’re all clean.”
UFC president Dana White also ignored safety protocols, refusing to wear a face mask and gloves.
While those involved with the event felt it was safe, UFC 249 didn’t go off without one significant issue. A day before the event, Ronaldo Souza and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus. Souza was taken off the card, and UFC 249 went on as planned.
UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira is expected to take place Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether UFC will pay closer attention to safety protocols during the event.
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