Souza was due to face Uriah Hall in a middleweight bout on the UFC 249 card in Jacksonville and, like all fighters involved on the card, had been subjected to coronavirus testing and daily temperature and health checks while at the UFC’s host hotel in the city.
The official weigh-ins took place on Friday with many fighters, including Souza and his opponent Hall, wearing face masks. Souza himself also wore medical gloves during the weigh-ins.
Unsurprisingly, Souza’s fight with Hall has been removed from the fight card, but the rest of the event will continue as planned, with the UFC’s executive vice president and chief business officer Hunter Campbell telling ESPN that the Florida State Athletic Commission had given the UFC clearance to still hold the event.
An official statement from the UFC laid out the situation in Jacksonville.
“The middleweight bout between Uriah Hall vs Jacaré Souza will no longer be on the UFC 249 preliminary card due to one of Souza’s COVID-19 tests indicating a positive result,” it began.
“In addition, COVID-19 tests for Souza’s two cornermen were also flagged as 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. 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.
“From their arrival earlier in the week until their departure today, Souza and his cornermen followed UFC health and safety protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing personnel protective equipment, and self-isolating whenever possible.
“There have been no other positive COVID-19 tests reported from the remaining athletes participating in UFC 249.
“The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event.
“Saturday’s UFC 249 card, which airs live on pay-per-view and is headlined by a battle for the interim lightweight title between No. 1-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson and No. 4-ranked Justin Gaethje will proceed as scheduled with 11 bouts.”
Hall tweeted Souza his sympathies, while also stating his own personal disappointment at missing out on the fight.
“@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.”
The UFC’s setup in Jacksonville has been designed to minimize risk, while also working to ensure fighters have the room to effectively socially distance from each other.
However, a video – since deleted – by former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, who is also set to fight on the card, showed Souza in close proximity to a number of other fighters during their time in the hotel.