Fighters screened upon arrival prior to UFC return to Florida
Fighters participating in Saturday UFC The 249 card in Jacksonville, Florida has been tested upon arrival and many have been isolating themselves in their rooms such as mixed martial arts promotion prepares to return to business following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, New York, but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. A bid to stage the card on tribal lands in California was aborted when UFC came under pressure from Disney, which owns broadcast partner ESPN.
With lockdown restrictions being lifted in some US states, the stage is set for the UFC 's return at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Florida, with an interim lightweight title bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje topping the bill.
The usual media-day mingle between fighters, journalists and camera crews was replaced by an online event at the hotel housing the fighters, with Ferguson appearing on the UFC webcam wearing a black face-mask as he fielded questions.
I don't feel different. Myself, I always came and went from work ... I'm not paying attention to anything other than smiling and making sure people understand that we are here for everyone else, he said. .
It's obviously a little quieter, and we obviously have no fans. The only reason everything else is like this, the only reason we're fighting, is because of the fans. Nothing else is changing, in any case, my game is more serious.
Henry Cejudo, a former Olympic wrestling champion who puts his bantamweight title on the line against Dominick Cruz in Saturday's main event, said he was evaluated within 15 minutes of arriving at his hotel.
He added that the lack of a crowd wouldn't bother him, saying: It doesn't matter if there are two people in the stands, or no one in the stands, or two billion people in the stands, I have to get the job done.
The UFC did not respond to a Reuters request for information on health and safety procedures but Cameroonian heavyweight Francis Ngannou did not enjoy the COVID-19 nasal swab test. I think I'd rather take a punch than take that (again), he said.