The Ultimate Fighting Championship has promised that their next pay-per-view promotion, UFC 261, would take place at an arena with a ‘full house of fans’ – according to president Dana White.
How is this possible when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advising event promoters to demonstrate physical distancing and not allow mass gatherings in order to combat the spread of coronavirus?
Well one way of getting around any legal threat comes in the fine print of UFC 261’s tickets which went on sale at the end of last week [and were quickly sold out]. The card boasts three title fights including Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal, Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shechenko vs. Jessica Andrade.
The UFC’s warnings regarding the virus-related health risk to ticketholders were shared by MMA Mania on Twitter.
The ticket fine print reportedly includes a warning that attendance at UFC 261 ‘may lead to exposure to COVID-19 and that contraction of COVID-19 may result in severe and permanent damage to the health of the Holder and/or others, including, but not limited to, death, fever, weight loss, irreversible pulmonary, respiratory and/or neurological system damage, loss of taste or smell, mental or emotional distress, temporary or permanent disability, loss of income, loss of employment, loss of financial or other opportunities, medical expenses...’
Self-evidently adding such explicit language to the UFC’s tickets is designed to protect the UFC from civil or criminal legal action should individuals contract, get sick or die from coronavirus as a direct result of attending the show, according to MMA reporting.
This may seem contradictory: UFC 261 is set to take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, in a promotion expected to be full capacity on fight night with 15,000 fans.
It’s unclear if the UFC or the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena will enforce face masks or the sort of rapid coronavirus testing that has been trialled successfully in Europe. Florida has a no mask mandate and the city of Jacksonville enacted a mask mandate last June for individuals in public indoor spaces but that mandate was allowed to expire a few days ago.
Although the US national vaccination programme appears to moving from strength to strength, Florida is still reporting over 5,000 new cases a day. Cases in Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, are hovering at around 115 per day, a massive drop from the over 1,000 cases a day that were being reported in January.