Fighters getting set to compete at this weekend’s UFC card in Las Vegas found themselves on the receiving end of some seemingly surprising news ahead of the event. According to a report from MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, the promotion would no longer be providing fighters with free COVID-19 testing kits ahead of their bouts. This news coming despite restrictions both for travel and competition that require fighters to provide proof of several negative tests for the novel coronavirus.
However, what initially seemed like a potentially cynical bit of cost cutting has resulted in a sharp rebuke from the world’s largest MMA, who called the news “incorrect and irresponsible” in a recent memo to fighters and managers.
***Sent on behalf of Hunter Campbell, UFC Chief Business Officer, to all athletes, corners and managers***
Please be advised that we are updating UFC’s COVID-19 testing program to give all athletes and corners the freedom and flexibility to secure their own COVID-19 test prior to departing for their scheduled UFC event.
This change is being made because low-cost COVID-19 testing has become readily accessible in the U.S. and abroad. To clarify, UFC will reimburse you for the initial cost of securing your own pre-departure test. As a result, UFC will no longer provide at-home testing kits. Recent reports in the media that athletes will be forced to bear the costs of “covid testing” are incorrect and irresponsible.
This change takes effect immediately. To receive a reimbursement for the cost of your test, please submit a copy of the receipt and your test result to your UFC medical coordinator.
The memo goes on to add that “there are no plans to change UFC’s current COVID-19 testing program during fight week.” Fighters are tested twice during fight week after arriving at the event location. Those tests have been and still will be provided, free of charge, by the UFC.
Helwani, who published the initial report on his substack, responded to the assertion from UFC brass over supposed inaccuracies.
Absolutely nothing “irresponsible” or “inaccurate” about my report yesterday. I think proves that. I have physical proof of the then-change in policy. Alas, glad fighters don’t have to pay out of pocket anymore.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 15, 2021
The first event to experience this change in pre-travel protocol is UFC Vegas 45, which takes place on Saturday, December 18th. That card is expected to be headlined by a heavyweight bout between Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus. A welterweight fight between Stephen Thompson and Belal Muhammad is planned for the co-main event.