UFC 249 is slated to take place this Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The event, which was originally planned to take place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 18th, was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The show, which now features Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje (not Khabib Nurmagomedov) is taking place in Florida thanks to that state’s relaxation of lockdown orders.
Just like at March 14th’s UFC Fight Night: Lee vs. Oliveira, which took place just as nations across the world began responding to the pandemic, UFC 249 will feature no fans in attendance.
When speaking with ESPN MMA UFC executive vice president of operation and production Craig Borsari revealed a number of other measures the promotion would be enacting in the name of health and safety.
According to Borsari the UFC’s broadcast team, which is comprised of Daniel Cormier, Joe Rogan and Jon Anik, will be sat at separate tables. Borsari also said that there will not be any Octagon interviews with fighters.
Instead fighters will be guided to an isolated area outside of the cage. There they will be given a sanitized headset, through which Rogan will interview them from his cageside location.
Borsari also revealed that the show’s production crew has been reduced from around 130 members to close to 80. Crew in the UFC production truck will be separated by plastic partitions. Social distancing is to be practiced in the arena by staff and media members. The promotion will attempt to limit personnel in the arena to fewer than 20 people. All crew members will wear N95 masks and gloves.
The UFC is also reportedly investigating how to disinfect the Octagon between fights.
Prior to these details becoming public the UFC released details regarding COVID-19 testing at the event. The testing protocol will feature fighters being administered both a diagnostic swab test and an antibody test. Fighters will also be given separate practice rooms and saunas to prepare for their fights.
The UFC’s testing protocols were recently criticized by immunologist Alan Schenkel, who called the plans “pretty weak.”
UFC 249 will be broadcast on ESPN+, with the prelim card airing on ESPN. Before the headliner pitting Ferguson against Gaethje there will be a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz. The main card also features Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar.