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Nevada’s stringent COVID-19 protocols could test UFC’s follow through

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The NSAC’s COVID-19 protocol appears more robust than the UFC’s plan. Which could mean the promotion will need to step up their game from their Jacksonville events.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Andre Berto - News Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If any UFC employee, including Dana White, attends Saturday’s UFC on ESPN event without wearing a mask, it looks like they will be in violation of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s (NSAC) COVID-19 protocols. Bloody Elbow obtained documents from the NSAC on Wednesday, shortly after the commission approved the UFC to hold events closed to the public at the UFC Apex on May 30 and June 6. Those documents detail what the commission will be expecting from the world’s largest MMA organization.

The NSAC protocols appear to be more stringent than the UFC’s, and includes a stipulation that “if any personnel is found to be in violation of Section 1-6, they will be subject to any and all disciplinary actions that can be brought against them by the NSAC.”

The commission document also includes the provision that “All personnel will follow the State of Nevada Social Distancing Guidelines including the wearing of a mask at all times,” something many UFC and event staff did not adhere to during the majority (if at all) of the three Jacksonville events.

The first thing, however, that the NSAC has done has been to clear up exactly who will be tested at events the Nevada commission oversees. It’s a lengthy list:

“ALL personnel working the event, to include, but not limited to, fighters, corners, managers, promoters, promoters staff, production staff, security, cleaning staff, Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) staff, and all officials, will be mandated to quarantine immediately after their COVID-19 tests.

“Upon receiving their results, they must stay quarantined (no contact with the public) until the conclusion of their respective event. The Promoter and Promoter’s staff will be responsible for knowing the location of all their personnel working the event.”

Nevada also goes deeper than the UFC protocols in detailing the closed system that “must be utilized” in the state.

The closed system requirements from the NSAC:

securing a facility that is closed to the public for the entirety of the event,

controlling who enters the facility

known whereabouts of all individuals inside the facility,

departures of individuals from the facility.

When entering the closed system, everyone will need to go through temperature monitoring, a questionnaire, oral fluid collection for COVID-19 testing and a period of quarantine until test results come back and they are approved to move inside the closed system.

During the promotion’s run of Jacksonville events earlier this month, the quarantine period did not appear to be strictly enforced. The requirement that fighters and staff remain quarantined until tests results come back seems like an essential step in controlling the spread of the virus.

NSAC PROTOCOLS PCR ONLY FOR EVENTS WITHOUT FANS.pdf

The UFC protocol for the Jacksonville events did not have a single mention of contact tracing. According to the Center for Disease Control, contact tracing “is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.” This should make up for what appears to have been a fairly glaring deficiency in the UFC’s original 30-page document. That’s now been covered by Section IV of the NSAC’s plan.

Section IV Contact Tracing Covid-19: Must be provided at the expense of the promoter and in conjunction with the Southern Nevada Health District for any individual whose test results are positive.

The NSAC detail on positive tests could be another great improvement on the UFC’s previous guidelines, which stated that, “upon receipt of the COVID-19 tests, the UFC medical staff will review the results and make a determination as to whether the person is a risk to others if they remain on premises. If there is a risk to others, the person will be required to leave the premises and not participate in the Jacksonville Events.” The overly vague language seems to allow for a lot of wiggle room when it comes to assessment of risk.

Section V Positive Test: All personnel that test positive will be required to seek immediate primary care, self-quarantine in the state of Nevada for 14 days and shall not be allowed to travel by air until cleared. Solo car travel may be permitted by the individual testing positive if they do not live in the state of Nevada but under no circumstance may the positive personnel be allowed to travel by air until cleared by an NSAC physician and have tested negative for the PCR test. Should the person fail to comply with this directive, he or she shall not be permitted to enter a closed system or participate in any future events of unarmed combat in this State until such time as these protocols are no longer in force.

The final shift from previous events to the protocols set down by the NAC on Wednesday centers around the UFC’s lack of a post-event plan. Without guidelines for post-event care, the UFC left the door open for athletes and staff to be put at additional risk. There was no mention in the UFC document about personal protective equipment during travel from the event and no mention of post-event quarantine. Most notably, the UFC’s plans mentioned nothing about COVID-19 testing after the event.

The NSAC document does not give instructions on the post-event protocol, but it does say the UFC needs to provide the commission with a “Plan for COVID-19 Testing of Personnel After Event.” That request is something the UFC has not yet published, so it’s unclear if they have steps already in place. Without post-event care, it’s hard to see the promotion as fully ensuring the health and safety of its athletes and staff.

The NSAC has done a good job in detailing what it expects from the UFC during the next two events, now it’s up to the UFC to deliver. If the promotion fails to do so, then it will be up to the commission to uphold the standards they set and grill UFC executives as to why they failed to follow the NSAC’s instructions on health and safety.