The UFC returned over the weekend for the first live sporting event on American soil in two months. UFC 249 took place in Jacksonville, Florida at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The event was held without any fans in attendance. Those who were lucky enough to get through the doors - those working and fighting - were asked to sign a waiver saying they would not criticize the UFC's coronavirus protocols. That included media members. Today, the MMA Journalists Association put out a statement advising members not to sign. Via MMAJA.com:
It is our opinion that this document is overly broad and overreaching in its scope, and may interfere with the ability of media members to do their jobs fully and effectively. We are advising members not to sign this document, even if it means foregoing in-person coverage of these UFC events.
But it is our belief that some of the restrictive language in the UFC’s agreement could have a chilling effect on journalists, possibly limiting their ability to fully and accurately report the facts. This is something we cannot support. MMAJA officers reached out to the UFC to discuss the matter, but received no response.
The UFC has events coming on Wednesday and Saturday, which will also take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Tomorrow's event will be broadcast entirely on ESPN+. Saturday's event will be broadcast on ESPN. Disney and ESPN executives were reportedly behind the decision to cancel the original UFC 249 event that the UFC attempted to hold in April while circumventing governmental regulations.
We shall see how the UFC responds to pushback from the media this time as they attempt to forge ahead in the coronavirus era. Last weekend's event had one fight scrapped when Jacare Souza and two of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19. Another 44 fighters and their teams will go through the same arena over the next few days. The question is, who will be there to cover it?