10:09 PM ET
Brett OkamotoESPN Staff Writer
- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
UFC immediately pulled Souza, 40, from the event, but it still plans on moving forward with the rest of the pay-per-view lineup. UFC said two of Souza’s cornermen also 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,” the promotion said in a statement. “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.”
Souza, who lives and trains in Florida, drove to Jacksonville on Wednesday. He informed UFC officials upon his arrival about a family member who might have been infected with the coronavirus. At that point, according to UFC, Souza was tested and monitored. He made weight during the official weigh-ins Friday morning and participated in a distanced staredown with Hall, wearing a mask and gloves, before receiving his positive results.
According to UFC, the 23 other athletes scheduled to compete at UFC 249 tested negative.
Brett Okamoto explains the UFC’s situation after Jacare Souza tests positive for coronavirus prior to his fight with Uriah Hall at UFC 249.
“We administered 1,200 tests this week, on 300 people,” UFC president Dana White said. “It’s not unexpected one person would test positive. The system works. And what’s good about this is now we know Jacare tested positive, he’s doing what he needs to do, and we’re in a position to help him if he needs it.”
UFC officials decided the event would move forward, after conferring with the Florida State Boxing Commission.
“The Florida State Athletic Commission has planned for the upcoming UFC series of matches with the welfare and safety of fighters and participants remaining the principal focus and priority,” read a statement released Saturday from Florida State Boxing Commission executive director Patrick Cunningham. “As planned, health and safety protocols have been followed and will continue to be paramount as the matches begin tonight. The Commission appreciates the continued cooperation and assistance of the representatives of the UFC in ensuring these protocols support a safe and successful series of events.”
Hall took to social media later Friday to wish Souza well.
@JacareMMA Brother I know it sucks I’m sorry you have to go through this I am beyond devastated for the missed opportunity I wish you nothing but recovery for you and your family.
— U R I A H H A L L (@UriahHallMMA) May 9, 2020
“We wish Jacare and his team a speedy recovery and look forward to competing against them in the future,” said Hall’s head coach Sayif Saud.
White told ESPN this development would have no impact on UFC’s next two events, which are scheduled to take place on Wednesday and on May 16 in Jacksonville. The Florida State Boxing Commission wasn’t expected to release a statement on the matter until Saturday morning.
Souza (26-8-0), who is originally from Brazil, is a former Strikeforce champion. During an interview with ESPN Brazil earlier this week, he spoke about fighting during the pandemic.
“I am afraid to do everything, even to go to the supermarket,” he said in a translated version of the interview. “But there is something I have to do, there is no escape. I prefer to work and take the risk because these are things we will have to do. But we are very concerned with this business. It is very serious, there are many people dying, it is complicated and sad.”
UFC 249’s main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view with preliminaries beginning at 6 p.m. on ESPN. It will mark UFC’s first live event since March 14 and will take place without a live audience.