We’ve come a long way from when Dana White was tight-lipped about the UFC’s COVID-19 testing plans for its upcoming shows.
As we near the promotion’s return to action (beginning with UFC 249 on Saturday), more details have emerged about the quantity of tests at its disposal. UFC COO Lawrence Epstein told the Sports Business Journal that they have more than 1,200 tests — 600+ for antigen and another 600+ for antibodies — available for the three cards set for Jacksonville, FL on May 9th, 13th, and 16th.
“In the early days of this epidemic, the testing capacity had to be focused exclusively on first responders,” Epstein said. “Now with testing capacity expanding, many of these tests that organizations like ours are getting access to don’t impact that testing.”
The UFC also confirmed that commentators Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Joe Rogan will be sat at different parts of the cage to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, and that no post-fight interviews will be conducted. Saturday’s show, which is live on pay-per-view, will have a production staff of about 80 instead of the usual 150. Dana White told Yahoo Sports that only about 150 people (staff, fighters, cornermen, etc.) will be inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
Testing capacity and access to testing itself remains a hot-button issue for much of the world, particularly the United States. Drastically increased testing is widely considered to be one of the keys to easing lockdown restrictions, which would include the return of sporting events like the UFC, NBA, or club soccer.
It can be debated whether 1,200+ tests is adequate enough for three events — keeping in mind fighters, corners, refs, judges, etc. — but these recent stories have been much more helpful in getting an understanding of how the UFC intends to operate during this coronavirus pandemic.