The UFC immediately pulled Souza, 40, from the event, but it still plans on moving forward with the rest of the pay-per-view lineup. The UFC also said two of Souza’s cornermen tested positive.
“UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of COVID-19,” the promotion said in a statement.
“As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment.”
Souza, who lives and trains in Florida and drove to Jacksonville on Wednesday, informed UFC officials upon his arrival about a family member who might have been infected with the coronavirus. At that point, according to the UFC, Souza was tested and monitored. He made weight during the official weigh-ins Friday morning and participated in a distanced staredown with Hall, wearing a mask and gloves, before receiving his positive results.
According to the UFC, all of the 23 other athletes scheduled to compete at UFC 249 tested negative. UFC officials decided the event would move forward, after conferring with the Florida State Boxing Commission.
Brett Okamoto explains the UFC’s situation after Jacare Souza tests positive for coronavirus prior to his fight with Uriah Hall at UFC 249.
“We administered 1,200 tests this week, on 300 people,” UFC president Dana White said. “It’s not unexpected one person would test positive. The system works. And what’s good about this, is now we know Jacare tested positive, he’s doing what he needs to do and we’re in a position to help him if he needs it.”
Hall took to social media later Friday to wish Souza well.
@JacareMMA Brother I know it sucks I’m sorry you have to go through this I am beyond devastated for the missed opportunity I wish you nothing but recovery for you and your family.
— U R I A H H A L L (@UriahHallMMA) May 9, 2020
White also told ESPN this development would have no impact on the UFC’s next two events, which are scheduled to take place on Wednesday and on May 16 in Jacksonville. The Florida State Boxing Commission wasn’t expected to release its own statement on the matter until Saturday morning.
Souza (26-8-0), who is originally from Brazil, is a former Strikeforce champion. During an interview with ESPN Brazil earlier this week, he spoke about fighting during the pandemic.
“I am afraid to do everything, even to go to the supermarket,” he said in a translated version of the interview. “But there is something I have to do, there is no escape. I prefer to work and take the risk because these are things we will have to do. But we are very concerned with this business. It is very serious, there are many people dying, it is complicated and sad.”
UFC 249’s main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view with preliminaries beginning at 6 p.m. on ESPN. It will mark the UFC’s first live event since March 14 and will take place without a live audience.