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Fighters could lose pay for criticising UFC’s Covid-19 measures

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) exponents who took part in UFC 249 could lose their purses and bonuses if they publicly criticise the fight promotion's health and safety precautions for Covid-19, according to an event participation agreement.

UFC 249, which started in Florida yesterday, became the first major American sporting event held since the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with President Donald Trump congratulating the promoter.

Yesterday's event was the first of three UFC fight cards over eight days.

Before competing, fighters were asked to sign an eight-page event participation agreement.

A clause in the undated agreement states that "the Participant will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity" that the events "have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to Covid-19 or otherwise".

The agreement goes on to say that if a fighter does breach this clause, "the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won... including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties".

Purses and bonuses form a major part of the income of most fighters on the roster.

A UFC spokesman declined to comment on the clause and the possibility of penalties being imposed on fighters, instead referring to comments UFC president Dana White gave to Yahoo.

"If a fighter says something that isn't true - if he says we didn't test anyone for this - that would (violate the agreement). But if he said something that was true, his opinion, then that is different," White said.

A planned middleweight bout between Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Uriah Hall yesterday was called off after Souza tested positive for Covid-19 following his arrival in Florida.

Fighters could lose pay for criticising UFC’s Covid-19 measures
Tony Ferguson. PHOTO: AFP

Another fighter, heavyweight Greg Hardy, who suffers from asthma, said in a news conference last Thursday that he was "terrified" of the virus, but went on to compete on the UFC 249 card and scored a decision victory over Yorgan De Castro.

UFC 249's main event saw Justin Gaethje end Tony Ferguson's 12-fight winning streak with a fifth-round technical knockout victory in the lightweight division in an empty 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

It set up a mouth-watering title unifying bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who had been due to fight Ferguson, but was unable to make it to UFC 249 due to travel restrictions in his native Russia.

Post-fight interviews yesterday were conducted inside the ring without masks. Outside the Octagon, many personnel - but not all - were wearing some protective equipment.