With the UFC still facing criticism for moving forward with UFC 249 on Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, one of the biggest names on the card has been forced out of the event after testing positive for coronavirus. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza was set to face Uriah Hall at the event, but ESPN revealed late Friday evening that Souza had tested positive for COVID-19 and was subsequently off the card.
The news comes after Souza had successfully made weight for his fight and engaged in a staredown -- though done with proper "social distancing" restrictions -- with Hall earlier in the day on Friday. According to the ESPN story, Souza had informed UFC officials a family member had tested positive during the pandemic but was asymptomatic. After his test returned a positive, he was removed from the card, as expected.
Despite Souza testing positive, UFC 249 is still scheduled to go on as planned on Saturday night in Jacksonville.
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal's Adam Hill, the Florida commission stated they kept Souza "isolated" after he disclosed contact with an infected relative. That said, Souza was still present at the weigh-ins today, using the same facilities as every other fighter on the card.
Just spoke with a FL state commission official who said he is still very comfortable with UFC 249 proceeding despite the positive test. Said Jacare disclosed a recent contact with an infected relative and was isolated upon his arrival until results came back. "The system worked."— Adam Hill (@AdamHillLVRJ) May 9, 2020
Jacksonville provided UFC 249 the go-ahead after a 30-page document detailing safety efforts during the pandemic was submitted by the UFC.
"Part of what gave us comfort was a plan they outlined related to testing those they're bringing to Jacksonville related to COVID-19," Jacksonville chief administrative officer Brian Hughes told ESPN. "Based on what we've been briefed, it is clear that they're going to test for COVID and they'll have a couple of different segments of testing throughout the week."
Souza is on a two-fight losing skid, including his most recent fight where he attempted a move to light heavyweight but was defeated by rising contender Jan Blachowicz.
Hall, Souza's scheduled opponent, posted on his Instagram his frustration over the situation, but understood that there are bigger things than fighting to worry about.
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Devastation would be an understatement of how I feel. as crazy as these times are we can’t forget that our health is much more important. i’m thankful that this was caught before it happened. to be honest I was prepared to die that’s how hard I have trained locking myself into a gym complete isolation mastering myself and my Demons I broke the news to my mother the first thing she said “ your disappointment is gods appointment “ and I didn’t know what God was protecting me from .and she’s happy that she didn’t have to read about losing her son... it’s so easy to get lost on what we want...forgetting to see what we already have that can’t be replaced ..life. I hope my opponent and his family recovers from this I can’t imagine what they are going through🙏🏾. The show goes on Good luck to the rest of the fighters.
"Devastation would be an understatement of how I feel. As crazy as these times are we can't forget that our health is much more important," Hall wrote. "I'm thankful that this was caught before it happened. To be honest I was prepared to die that's how hard I have trained locking myself into a gym complete isolation mastering myself and my Demons I broke the news to my mother the first thing she said " your disappointment is god's appointment " and I didn't know what God was protecting me from. I hope my opponent and his family recovers from this I can't imagine what they are going through."
UFC 249 was rescheduled from its original April 18 date due to the global pandemic which has halted social gatherings and enforced strict travel restrictions. In the lead-up to the event, the UFC instituted several safety protocols for the event, including rigorous testing for fighters and cornermen involved.