UFC holds first-ever jam-packed event amid pandemic


  • Over 15,000 MMA fans watched the UFC 261 event in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday.
  • Attendees were compelled to provide background information as part of safety measures and signed a waiver prior to watching the event.
  • Only 25 percent of the crowd wore a face mask during the seven-hour event.

In a first-ever jam-packed event since the COVID-19 outbreak in March last year, over 15,000 UFC fans flocked to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday. It marked the first full-capacity indoor sporting event in the country, pandemic time.

Amid the continuous pandemic, UFC president Dana White proceeded with hosting the event. 

All attendees were compelled to fill out a survey about potential COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prior to getting to their seat. They were also required to sign a waiver that would shield UFC from any possible suit should anyone contract the virus.

“I think just the whole getting through Covid, doing it safely, being the first one to come back and then doing this tonight with a full, indoor crowd (is a big milestone),” White told Rolling Stone during the UFC 261 post-fight press conference. 

“We Covid-tested this whole week with the athletes and us (staff members and media), I Covid-tested all week and everybody was good and we did it again. It’s time to get back to normal. I know a lot of you guys in the media don’t feel exactly the way I do about a lot of things, but you can’t deny it felt pretty fucking good to be in Florida this week and be normal,” he narrated.

Majority of states are not yet ready to back White’s sporting event despite the rise of vaccination rollouts. In Florida, however, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was firm in reopening the state even with the COVID-19 scare. Last year, DeSantis permitted the MMA league to hold three empty-arena events. And now alongside Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, they allowed White to hold the event.

“Welcome to Florida: You guys aren’t the only ones looking to come to this oasis of freedom,” DeSantis told fans at a press conference prior to UFC 261. 

“This is going to be the first full-throttle sporting event since Covid hit, indoor, anywhere in the United States. I think it’s fitting. We wanted to be safe, but there’s a lot of stuff that comes at you from the media, from social media, all this stuff. Some people don’t like to handle that. Dana White goes right into the teeth of that,” he added.

There was no single vacant seat during Saturday’s event. One UFC representative told Rolling Stone that half of the crowd came outside of Florida. 

Every fan had a discretion whether or not to wear a face mask, but it was not compulsory as mandated by the state laws. Around 75 percent of the crowd opted not to wear masks during the event.

The event spent almost seven hours, with all three championship matches ending in amazing knockouts. 

Source: Rolling Stone

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