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‘Jacare’ Souza positive for coronavirus, scratched from UFC 249

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The extensive testing undertaken by the UFC to protect the health and safety of fighters competing on Saturday’s UFC 249 card has resulted in a positive coronavirus case.

UFC middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Friday came up positive for the COVID-19 virus, scratching him from the pay-per-view event less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to begin. UFC broadcast partner ESPN.com first reported the news.

UFC officials later confirmed the news along with a statement regarding Souza’s test results along with two of his corner men who also tested positive for COVID-19.

“The middleweight bout between Uriah Hall vs Jacaré Souza will no longer be on the UFC 249 preliminary card due to one of Souza’s COVID-19 tests indicating a positive result,” UFC officials said in a statement sent to MMA Fighting. “In addition, COVID-19 tests for Souza’s two cornermen were also flagged as positive.

“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. 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 personal protective equipment, and self-isolating whenever possible.”

Souza was scheduled to face Uriah Hall on the event’s preliminary card. Hall’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Per the initial report, Souza disclosed a family member had tested positive for the virus upon arriving to the event’s host hotel on Wednesday in Jacksonville, Fla. He was asymptomatic, but the promotion awaited the results of a mandatory test required of fighters upon arrival. That test returned a positive result, UFC EVP and Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN.com.

The Florida State Boxing Commission reportedly has been notified of the positive test and has allowed the event to continue as planned, per Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The UFC also confirmed no other fighters on the card tested positive for COVID-19 and the event will move ahead as scheduled with 11 total bouts.

“There have been no other positive COVID-19 tests reported from the remaining athletes participating in UFC 249,” UFC officials stated.

“The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event. Saturday’s UFC 249 card, which airs live on pay-per-view and is headlined by a battle for the interim lightweight title between No. 1-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson and No. 4-ranked Justin Gaethje will proceed as scheduled with 11 bouts.”

The UFC enacted strict safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at a time when the sporting world is closed down. The promotion submitted a 25-page plan to city officials and outlined detailed procedures for social distancing before and during the events. Many fighters, including Souza, wore masks as they conducted media interviews and weighed in, and Souza and Hall were distanced as they faced off after official weigh-ins.

Souza is the second known UFC fighter confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus in the midst of the global pandemic after welterweight Lyman Good revealed a positive test had scratched him from the first scheduled date of UFC 249. In an interview prior to his travel to UFC 249, Souza acknowledged his fear of the virus, but expressed confidence in his promoter’s safety protocols.

“I’m scared, that’s normal,” he said. “Everyone’s scared. We try to keep everyone protected, but I keep thinking about one thing: if I can’t pay my house’s mortgage, if I can’t pay my bills, I’m going to lose my house. If I go out to the streets, that’s when it gets complicated, that’s when they really won’t be protected. I have to take care of my family one way or the other, and I believe ... I know the UFC will keep me protected.”