Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza learned on Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, pulling him off the card for UFC 249 on Saturday night.
But just a day before he received his positive test, video showed a gloved and mask-wearing Souza at a pre-match photo-op where he fist-bumped UFC President Dana White — before White went on to touch a number of other fighters on Saturday’s card. While it was not clear if White had any risk of contracting coronavirus given that Souza wore gloves and a face mask, the video still garnered some viral attention and spread on social media in the wake of Souza’s positive test.
The event, set for Saturday at 10 p.m. from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, itself does not appear to be in any danger, ESPN reported. UFC officials reportedly worked with Florida state athletic officials, who gave the green light for the event to move forward since the proper protocol was followed in Souza’s case.
As ESPN reported, Souza trained for the event in Orlando, Florida, and arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday, where he told UFC officials that one of his family members had tested positive for coronavirus. Souza was then tested and monitored, and learned on Friday that he had tested positive.
Souza’s positive test, and his traveling from Orlando to Jacksonville ahead of Saturday’s event, has led to some criticism of White for not keeping closer tabs on the fighters ahead of the match that itself was already controversial.
“How did Souza travel to the hotel. How many people did he come into contact with,” tweeted Bloody Elbow writer Trent Reinsmith. ” This is why fighters should have been quarantined two weeks before the event before moving to the hotel, but Dana White knows best.”
UFC 249 had originally been scheduled to take place on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but had to be canceled due to New York state’s restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak. White had vowed to move forward, and the event was shifted to Florida, which had allowed some sports to continue as non-essential businesses closed.
A number of public health experts have warned against holding sporting events amid the coronavirus outbreak, but White has been confident in the UFC’s ability to safely hold the event. On Friday, White noted that the UFC going forward with the event seemed to have the support of President Donald Trump.
“His whole philosophy was let’s get sports back first, figure out how to do that safely,” White told Yahoo Sports. “Then let’s start figuring out how do you get people back in the office? How do you get people in cubicles? And, then how do you get kids back in school?”
“So, this is something we’ve been working on and yes, he’s absolutely watching what we’re doing this weekend.”