An Atlanta-based epidemiologist has slated UFC for botching proper safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic after UFC 249 fighter Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza tested positive for the virus.
Zachary Binney, an adjunct instructor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, wrote on Twitter that UFC and its president, Dana White, “were negligent” in restarting too soon, adding, “If this was your system working as designed, your system is bogus.”
The UFC had announced Souza’s positive test Friday, removing the middleweight from his scheduled bout against Uriah Hall for the event, set to take place in Jacksonville, Fla. Two of Souza’s cornermen also tested positive and like Souza, were found to be asymptomatic.
On Friday, Souza wore face protection and gloves as he stepped onto the scale during the weigh-in. He was tested again, according to published reports, before fighter face-offs, during which time White touched fists with Souza and came into contact with other fighters.
Souza, based in Orlando, Florida, had driven to Jacksonville on Wednesday and informed UFC officials he had been exposed to a family member infected with the coronavirus. UFC subsequently tested Souza, permitting him to remain on the card.
Souza and his entire team, according to a UFC statement, left the host hotel to self-quarantine off the premises.
Video released early Saturday morning, however, appeared to show Souza failing to maintain social distance at the hotel around other fighters before the weigh-in.
“The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event,” the statement read in part, with UFC adding no other fighters had tested positive.
But in series of tweets, Binney questioned the UFC on several of its decisions, particularly as they related to social distancing. Binney, for instance, called the UFC “reckless” for allowing Souza to attend the weigh-in despite him having notified officials he had been exposed.
“No, I don’t buy this is the system working as designed and proof UFC and Dana White are being responsible,” Binney tweeted.
In contrast, a bullish US President Trump congratulated UFC for restarting the sports world after a nearly two-month hiatus.
Trump’s taped message was played during the bouts at the fan-free arena in Jacksonville.
“I want to congratulate (UFC President) Dana White and the UFC,” Trump said. “They’re going to have a big match. We love it. We think it’s important. Get the sports leagues back. Let’s play. Do the social distancing and whatever else you have to do. We need sports. We want our sports back. Congratulations to Dana White and UFC.”