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UFC limit travels on fight week to ‘ensure the integrity’ of COVID-19 protocols

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UFC 256: Ferguson v Oliveira Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The UFC has tightened COVID-19 protocols to protect athletes from potential COVID-19 exposure on fight week.

The fight promotion recently implemented new travel restrictions to “ensure the integrity of UFC’s testing and protocols,” restricting where and how fighters and their teams can travel after they arrive in Las Vegas, the promotion’s home and its base of operations since restarting its event schedule.

The new policy was first revealed by Twitter user Alex Scaffidi. MMA Fighting confirmed it with two industry veterans who represent UFC fighter and received the notice.

“To ensure the integrity of UFC’s [COVID-19] testing and quarantine protocols, no athlete or corner will be permitted to use any vehicle not officially approved or arranged by UFC once the athlete or corner has checked in for Fight Week,” the notice states. “This includes personally owned vehicles, rental vehicles, a friend’s vehicle, or ride share vehicles, such as Uber or Lyft.

“This policy applies to ALL athletes and corners, including those based in Las Vegas, as well as those based outside of Las Vegas.

“In addition, any athlete or corner who leaves the hotel property without coordinating with UFC Event Operations, including post fight, will not be allowed back into the hotel.

“If an athlete or corner needs transportation for any reason during Fight Week, including to go to the market, the UFC Performance Institute, or UFC APEX, they must call [name redacted] with UFC Event Operations.

“Thank you in advance for your cooperation.”

Veteran UFC strawweight Tecia Torres spoke to reporters after UFC 256 about the restrictions on fighters’ movement before the event at UFC APEX, the promotion’s live event facility. The move comes as the country confronts a surge of COVID-19 cases that’s led to a huge uptick in deaths and infections. Positive COVID-19 cases have drastically altered several UFC fight cards with several fighters testing positive on fight day.

In the previous iteration of the UFC’s COVID-19 protocols, fighters arriving in Las Vegas were required to quarantine in their hotel rooms until they received the results of their first COVID-19 test. Afterward, however, they were allowed to go about normal fight week proceedings, and there were no specific restrictions on their movement in the time between their first negative test and a second test administered following weigh-ins on Friday, which triggered another quarantine until they were transported to the UFC APEX.

Prior to UFC 255, several fighters were seen at locations around Las Vegas, raising questions of whether they could potentially have been exposed to the virus, though COVID-19’s incubation period may have ruled out a positive in the final test with an average of five days before the virus builds up to detectable levels.

UFC President Dana White has defended the promotion’s handling of safety over the COVID-19 virus.

“This thing is f*ckin wacky and you do the best you can,” he said after a fighter had multiple negative tests on fight week before a positive. “We’re doing everything the right way and, who knows with this thing? Nobody has been able to get this thing figured out yet. We’ve been solid.”