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New U.S. vaccination travel policies could spell trouble for Russian UFC fighters

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Travellers to the United States are required to show proof of vaccination from one of the WHO’s seven approved vaccines. Russia’s Sputnik V did not make the cut.

UFC 266: Abdurakhimov v Daukaus Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The new COVID-19 vaccination travel policy imposed by the United States government may spell trouble for UFC fighters based in Russia.

The White House issued an order last week requiring all travellers to provide proof of full vaccination in order to enter the U.S. starting Nov. 8, 2021. Travellers must be inoculated with one of the seven COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, a recent delay in approving Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine means that Russian UFC fighters might not be able to enter the U.S. even if they have been vaccinated.

Despite being the first registered COVID-19 vaccine and its approved usage in dozens of countries, Sputnik V continues to struggle to gain full approval from the WHO. In July 2021, the WHO revealed that it found some issues with the filling of Sputnik V vials at one plant in Russia, which added to the delay. The manufacturer has since claimed to have addressed all of the WHO’s concerns, and that WHO inspectors are due to visit Russia shortly “to round up all necessary inspections and paperwork on Sputnik V.”

Currently, no vaccine other than Sputnik is publicly available in Russia.

With limited options to enter the U.S., Russian fighters will likely compete is countries with less restrictive regulations. According to UFC President Dana White, that place will likely be ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi.

“I think ‘Fight Island’ is going to be hopping again,” White told reporters when asked about the new regulations. “Yeah, we’re looking to do more events [there]. I’m going to Abu Dhabi [within a week], so I have a lot of meetings out there.”

It is worth noting that UFC 267, which is scheduled to take place Oct. 30 at the Etihad Stadium in Abu Dhabi, will feature nine fighters from the Russian Federation, including Chechen fighters Khamzat Chimaev, Albert Duraev and Zubaira Tukhugov, as well as Dagestan’s Magomed Mustafaev and Tagir Ulanbekov.

However, beyond UFC 267, the organization does not have any other international events planned for the foreseeable future.