Ronaldo Souza, two cornermen test positive for coronavirus ahead of UFC 249, card will still go on

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Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s upcoming bout against Uriah Hall at UFC 249 on Saturday will have to wait.

Souza tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. The fight between the two has been canceled, though UFC 249 will still go on as scheduled at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Souza, per the report, arrived in Florida on Wednesday and told UFC officials that a family member might have tested positive. He was not showing any symptoms. Souza was then tested and reportedly isolated, though he weighed in and appeared in pictures with UFC president Dana White on Friday before his positive test came back. Souza was wearing gloves and a mask during his weigh-in and faceoff.

Two of Ronaldo’s cornermen also tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, the UFC announced.

UFC 249 will still be held

UFC officials, per ESPN, worked with Florida athletic officials about the status of UFC 249 as a whole after the positive test. They determined that it can go forward “because the system worked.” Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje are set to highlight the card in an interim lightweight title bout.

The UFC administered 1,200 tests on 300 people this week, and the other 23 fighters on the card have all tested negative, according to ESPN.

“UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of COVID-19,” the UFC said in a statement. “As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment.

“From their arrival earlier in the week until their departure today, Souza and his cornermen followed UFC health and safety protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing personnel protective equipment, and self-isolating whenever possible.

“There have been no other positive COVID-19 tests reported from the remaining athletes participating in UFC 249. The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event.” 

One day before UFC 249, Ronaldo Souza tested positive for the coronavirus. (Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
One day before UFC 249, Ronaldo Souza tested positive for the coronavirus. (Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

There were more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 77,000 deaths attributed to the virus. There were nearly 40,000 cases in Florida and 1,088 in Duval County, where the fight is taking place.

Dana White’s long battle to hold UFC 249

White has been trying to hold UFC 249 for quite some time now, repeatedly ignoring advice from medical experts and state mandates after the event’s initial location — the Barclays Center in New York — canceled on him due to the coronavirus outbreak. He even tried to hold it on tribal land in California last month after several other options failed before ESPN and Disney finally shut him down.

After most of Florida reopened and deemed sports as essential businesses, however, White got it and two others scheduled. The fights on May 13 and May 16 are still on as scheduled, too.

He seemed very confident about the event on Friday, too, and even said that President Donald Trump will be watching to use UFC 249 as an example for how to open the rest of the country despite the pandemic still raging.

“His whole philosophy was let's get sports back first, figure out how to do that safely,” White said. “Then let's start figuring out how do you get people back in the office? How do you get people in cubicles? And, then how do you get kids back in school?"

“So, this is something we've been working on and yes, he's absolutely watching what we're doing this weekend.”

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