The UFC has promised extensive testing of fighters in advance of UFC 249 on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla. Now, the promotion has put it in writing.
An email sent to fighters from the UFC Performance Institute, obtained by MMA Fighting, sets fight-week protocols for the pay-per-view event, which includes COVID-19 testing by the “UFC Medical Team.”
A person with knowledge of the promotion’s plans, who declined to be named because they haven’t been made public, told MMA Fighting the testing includes both swab and antibody tests. The former tests for the active presence of the virus in the body and involves a six-inch swab being inserted into the nasal cavity to collect material from the back of the throat. The latter is conducted via a blood sample and tests whether a person has been exposed to the virus.
Results are expected to be available prior to the event, according to the person, though specifics on the turnaround time and number of tests being performed is not specified in the email. According to an earlier email sent by the UFC regarding safety protocols, testing will begin upon fighters’ arrival and will be conducted daily. A report on ESPN.com, which first reported the COVID-19 testing protocol, said the daily checks will include temperature checks and questions about coronavirus symptoms.
In addition to being tested for COVID-19, fighters will be screened by a UFC PI dietician to address their weight and weight-cutting methods, nutritional needs and food allergies. The UFC’s official meal delivery service, Trifecta, will offer meals and snacks before the event and after weigh-ins. Complimentary third-party verified supplements will also be available from UFC sponsor Thorne, which are aimed at maintaining a healthy stomach, mitigating “inflammatory response” to the stress of weight-cutting and “hormonal effects” of menstrual cycles for female fighters. The food will be delivered to athletes’ hotel rooms at prescribed times to allow for social distancing.
Fighters have also been assigned to specific members of the UFC PI’s medical staff. The staff will manage “performance-related matters ONLY” before and after the event at a dedicated room for one-to-one treatment, with coaches and teammates not allowed to enter. Fighters are required to take a shower prior to the meeting and sanitize their hands, and their temperature will be taken upon entry. Both fighters and PI personnel are required to wear face masks and gloves. Rooms will be sanitized after each 40-minute session.
An addendum at the bottom of the email states: “UFC reserves the right, in its discretion, to withdraw, modify or otherwise change any of the services referred to above. Additionally, all policies and procedures, including all medical procedures, are subject to change or modification by UFC at any time, and are subject to all other policies and procedures that UFC may implement. UFC makes no representations or warranties or other promises with respect to the availability of any of the services referred to herein or the effectiveness thereof.”
As previously reported, the UFC has set forth modified procedures for fighters at the host hotel. Fighters will be given credentials to wear at all times and are supposed to receive individual workout rooms and personal saunas for weight-cutting. Only individual competitors and licensed corners are allowed access to the training room throughout the course of the week, and only the fighters, licensed cornermen and designated UFC staff are allowed at the hotel. Hotel staff will wear personal protective equipment and use hospital-grade sanitizer.