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Editorial: Dana White’s claims UFC Jacksonville events were successful are premature

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We won’t know until the end of the month if UFC Jacksonville events were safe

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When it comes to the three UFC Jacksonville events that just wrapped up, it’s much too early to raise a V for victory and celebrate the success of the fight cards. Why? Because we don’t know if they were a success and the risk of COVID-19 doesn’t just magically disappear when a UFC event ends.

Despite that, UFC president Dana White took a victory lap during the post-fight press conference which followed Saturday’s fight card.

“I’m happy to have it behind me. I wanted this week to be over. It was successful in every way it could be successful,” White said. “I feel great about it. More importantly, nobody is sick. Nobody is sick. Nobody has gotten sick. Hopefully, that’s the case. There’s no guarantees in life, but hopefully that’s the case and we all go home. It was a great event. It was a great week.”

It wasn’t a great week.

The UFC did not follow its own safety protocol during any of the events. Whenever he could, White mentioned the 30-page document (it was 25) the UFC used as a guide to hold a safe event. He failed to mention the many times he — as the face of the organization — disregarded the safety protocol the UFC literally wrote itself. He didn’t mention the UFC did not comply with this portion of the plan (among many other items), “If any UFC personnel do not comply with this plan, they will not be permitted to enter or remain on premises at the Arena.”

Also, the jury is still out on White’s claims that, “Nobody is sick. Nobody is sick. Nobody has gotten sick.”

The UFC allowed Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to travel from his home in Florida to the event after Souza had been in contact with a family member who had tested positive for the virus. When Souza and his team were tested at the UFC 249 fighter hotel, Souza and two of his coaches tested positive for COVID-19. Had the UFC pre-screened Souza before travel, it would have known he had been in contact with someone who had the virus and could have prevented him from traveling to the event. The UFC did not do that, nor did it enforce a quarantine on Souza, who was seen close to at least one other fighter (Fabricio Werdum) in a social media post.

Here is why White cannot claim that no one is sick.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “The incubation period for COVID-19 is thought to extend to 14 days, with a median time of 4-5 days from exposure to symptoms onset. One study reported that 97.5% of persons with COVID-19 who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

With that, we won’t safely know if everyone — not just the fighters — who attended any of the three UFC Jacksonville events is healthy until May 31, assuming everyone involved with the three events departs Florida on Sunday, May 17.

There’s also a chance that we may never know if anyone involved with the event, outside Souza and his two coaches, developed COVID-19. That’s because the UFC had all participants at the event — including media — sign a waiver which states, “will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity that the Activities have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to COVID-19 or otherwise. If the Participant is a Fighter, the Participant hereby acknowledges and agrees that in the event that the Participant breaches this Paragraph 7, the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant in connection with the Activities, including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.”

That waiver could be enough to deter anyone who might test positive for COVID-19 in the coming weeks from bringing that diagnosis to light.

We can all keep our fingers crossed that no one gets sick, but until we know for sure that that is true, it’s premature to call the UFC’s return an unmitigated success.