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Alexander Volkanovski ‘gutted’ after COVID-19 positive test caused UFC 260 scratch

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski on Saturday announced a positive COVID-19 test has ruled him out of a title defense against Brian Ortega at UFC 260.

The promotion confirmed Volkanovski’s removal from the March 27 event citing COVID-19 protocols, but did not provide further details on the circumstances surrounding the scratch. UFC 260 takes place at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Volkanovski, who hails from New South Wales, Australia, wrote on Twitter that he had passed his pre-travel COVID-19 test and another before entering the UFC’s “bubble” in Las Vegas. But a third test came back positive, and he was immediately ruled out of the event.

Volkanovski’s sometime training partner, UFC lightweight Brad Riddell, was ruled out of UFC Vegas 22 on Saturday due to COVID-19 protocols; it’s unclear whether he also tested positive for the virus.

Fighters’ movements are restricted while they are in the bubble, and they are subject to COVID-19 tests as part of the UFC’s safety protocols. After several positive tests close to or on event days, the UFC further clamped down on movement during fight week.

The fight was to serve as Volkanovski’s second title defense after a pair of wins against Max Holloway, the first of which made him champion. The Aussie champ most recently defended his title against Holloway via split decision this past July at UFC 251.

UFC officials said the featherweight title bout will be rescheduled to a later date. Ortega is five months removed from a decision over Chan Sung Jung that put him back in the win column after a brutal loss to then-champ Holloway in 2018.

UFC 260 is headlined by a heavyweight title rematch between champ Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou.