After already having accomplished eight occasions within the coronavirus period, the UFC is promising even tighter protocols on what has been dubbed “Combat Island.”
Along with present process considerably extra testing than the UFC has accomplished to date, these concerned within the 4 occasions this month on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island might be relegated to a “protected zone” the place members of most of the people won’t be allowed. All these contained within the “protected zone,” together with native staff and the UFC’s touring occasion, might be examined for COVID-19 a number of occasions. Usually, individuals within the contained space won’t have in-and-out privileges.
“It should be the tightest bubble that you can form of ever produce,” UFC COO Lawrence Epstein advised ESPN. “It is a fairly distinctive scenario on an island with unbelievable controls over who’s coming in and never letting individuals come again in as soon as they’ve left.”
The presence of a real bubble is likely one of the largest variations between the exhibits in america and people being held this month in Abu Dhabi.
The promotion bought up and operating on Could 9 with its first present because the pandemic began and has been rolling almost each week since then. The primary three UFC occasions again have been in Jacksonville, Florida, adopted by 5 in Las Vegas. Now, the promotion goes worldwide with 4 July playing cards on Yas Island, starting with UFC 251 on Saturday and adopted by exhibits on July 15, July 18 and July 25.
With every set of exhibits, the UFC’s coronavirus protocols have tightened and grow to be extra stringent. Fighters, corners and employees have been examined for COVID-19 as soon as in Jacksonville and no less than twice in Las Vegas. On Combat Island, these concerned within the occasions may very well be examined as much as 5 occasions from starting to finish.
“As we went into these occasions we had form of a saying that the plan is written in pencil,” Epstein mentioned. “With the mindset that it is gonna change — it is gonna change for the higher with every occasion and every expertise we now have.”
The fighters competing at UFC 251 on Saturday and their corners are already on the bottom in Abu Dhabi. Most left on constitution planes Friday from 4 anchor cities: Las Vegas; Sao Paulo, Brazil; London; or Moscow. They needed to journey to these cities, get examined for COVID-19 and quarantine earlier than boarding a constitution to Abu Dhabi as soon as the check outcomes got here again.
UFC 251 headliner Gilbert Burns examined constructive for COVID-19, together with two of his nook individuals, on Friday earlier than takeoff. He has since been changed on the cardboard by Jorge Masvidal, who challenges Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title. Masvidal and Burns each left for Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, everybody might be examined once more (no less than as soon as) and be in quarantine for as much as 48 hours till the outcomes got here again. There’s another prefight COVID check plus quarantine earlier than the fights after which a ultimate check earlier than departure. That is no less than 4 exams (and probably 5) per fighter, nook and employees member. The UFC is anticipating 3,300 exams to be administered over the course of the month.
Sources on the bottom advised ESPN that quarantines are enforced through CCTV surveillance. Meals are pre-ordered and delivered to rooms. One supply known as the eye to element “superb” and “essentially the most thorough protocol I’ve ever seen.”
“I poke holes in protocols and processes for a residing,” one other supply mentioned. “They did this one good. House run.”
Epstein mentioned the UFC administered greater than 2,500 coronavirus exams in Las Vegas for the playing cards from Could 30 by June 27. There have been 11 positives, simply 0.4%, he mentioned. The variety of COVID exams anticipated in Abu Dhabi represents a couple of 32% enhance.
Per the UFC, there might be 22 constitution flights utilized over the course of the month to move 630 individuals. The overall inhabitants of Combat Island might be about 2,500 at any given time, together with these concerned within the UFC occasions and native staff and employees. There are three medical amenities and 17 medical personnel individuals on web site.
Along with testing, face coverings should be worn in public always and social distancing — 6½ ft — might be enforced always. There might be nightly temperature screenings.
The “protected zone” options Yas Seaside (the place an Octagon is ready up for coaching), a golf course, the Flash Discussion board struggle venue, seven resorts, a number of coaching amenities and greater than a dozen eating places.
“I feel we have accomplished an incredible job on the trail,” Epstein mentioned. “I feel our system and protocols and schooling are working. However further measures being taken to ensure that is even safer, we’re at all times open to getting higher. And that is what we’re attempting to do for each single occasion.”
The plan following Abu Dhabi is to return to Las Vegas for 9 occasions in August, together with 4 Dana White’s Contender Sequence playing cards and UFC 252 on Aug. 15. Epstein mentioned the UFC is monitoring the rise in coronavirus circumstances in Nevada — and all the United States — however the promotion is “assured” Las Vegas might be a viable vacation spot subsequent month for occasions.
One huge change the UFC will implement in its return to the UFC Apex in Vegas, a facility proper throughout from the corporate’s campus, is a discount by 60% of manufacturing employees within the struggle venue under, Epstein mentioned. These staffers will transfer to rooms at the moment being in-built an higher space and by no means come into contact with the fighters.
“They’re going to be at social distance in these management rooms and so they’ll by no means work together with anyone on the ground, which is nice,” Epstein mentioned. “An important factor you are able to do from the outset is simply restrict the variety of individuals which are concerned in producing these occasions.”
The UFC will debrief after Abu Dhabi and talk about placing forth extra modifications for the Las Vegas return. However first there are 4 occasions within the coming weeks from Combat Island, which Epstein described as UFC president Dana White’s child from the start.
“Dana has provide you with some unbelievable concepts through the years,” Epstein mentioned. “Combat Island is true on the prime of the listing so far as I am involved.”
Info from ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was used on this report.