Even with the global coronavirus pandemic going on, the UFC 249 fight week was going as good as it could get given the circumstances. The week was so smooth up until late Friday night when the fight card took a major hit.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will no longer be fighting on Saturday’s preliminary card after testing positive for COVID-19. ESPN was first to report the news. Souza was scheduled to fight Uriah Hall in a middleweight bout.
Despite the negative attention that will likely be drawn for Souza’s positive coronavirus test, the UFC 249 card will still go on as planned. Hunter Campbell, who is the EVP and Chief Business Officer of the UFC, confirmed to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that the promotion will go forward with putting on the event.
UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell discussed the news today with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith (@stephenasmith). Jacare's test results came back today, after he did a social distanced staredown with Hall.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 9, 2020
The UFC had been testing fighters for the virus all week from their hotel in Jacksonville, Fla. where UFC 249 will be held. Souza arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday and upon arrival he informed UFC officials that a member of his family had tested positive for COVID-19. Souza did not have any symptoms, but as a precaution, he was isolated and tested. On Friday his test came back positive.
The UFC has spoke with Florida athletic officials, who said the fights can go on as scheduled because the system worked in Souza’s case.
Souza (26-8), who is the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, was going to make his return to middleweight on Saturday against Hall (15-9) after moving up to light heavyweight in November 2019. Souza lost his light heavyweight fight against Jan Blachowicz by a spilt decision.
With the Jacare vs. Hall fight officially off, the fight card will now feature 11 fights as opposed to 12. The prelims will begin at 6 p.m. EST and will air on ESPN, while streaming on ESPN+. The main card will begin at 10 p.m. and will be on pay-per-view. A lightweight interim title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will headline the card, with a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz serving as the co-main event.