by Alex Poletti
Photo by Zhe Ji / Getty Images
Despite the postponement of Saturday’s UFC 249 event, UFC president Dana White announced that he’s eyeing a May 9 return for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which would make it the first sports organization to return to America. When asked about how the coronavirus pandemic may affect that, he said that he is amending the rules to make spreading coronavirus an illegal move in the UFC.
“I think once fighters realize that they could get disqualified for spreading the virus, it will really decentivize them from doing so,” White says. “I know a lot of times when we change the rules to make it safer for the fighters, it takes some of the danger out of it for the crowd. However, I still think the UFC will be entertaining despite the rule change.”
And just like that, spreading the coronavirus joins the ranks of illegal moves such as head-butting, fish-hooking and grabbing the fence. While it takes a bit of time for each rule change to catch on, the UFC hopes that fighters will adapt quickly.
“Some fighters will definitely have to switch up their strategy,” vice president of operations James Kimball says. “But if we hammer home that moves such as spitting or sneezing in someone’s face after testing positive with COVID-19 is just as bad as a rabbit punch, they should get it eventually.”
UFC 249 was set to be held at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California, but White says that ESPN told him to back down over coronavirus concerns. White hopes that the new measures he’s taken will stop a similar thing from happening in a month’s time.
Still, there is still some concern that holding a fight will endanger the lives of the fighters and all other personnel on site. Most projections see social distancing protocols lasting for far past White’s projected May 9 return date.
“This is the UFC, I don’t know why they’re expecting us to follow safety regulations,” White says. “You want to see something where you know everyone’s gonna come home safe? Go watch your shitty daughter’s rec-league soccer game.”