Editorial: UFC improves COVID-19 protocols, but big pieces remain absent

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With the uptick in positive COVID-19 tests, the UFC needs to do more Dan Hooker had a fight for the ages on June 27. Hooker spent 25 minutes inside the octagon with Dustin Poirier on that night. Hooker left the cage without the victory. He left the arena in the back of an ambulance.

After the brutal battle, it s easy to believe that Hooker would have loved to spend some time in his own home with his family. However, with COVID-19 effectively eliminated in his home country of New Zealand, the country does not allow anyone to return to their home without a two-week quarantine period.

One of the first photographs we saw of Hooker after the Poirier fight was his daughter clutching the bars of a metal barrier as Hooker stood approximately six feet from her on the other side of that barrier.

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So close and yet so far! #familyovereverything A post shared by Dan "Hangman" Hooker danhangman on Jun 29, 2020 at 10:19pm PDT

The image was a moving one. It showed the sacrifice Hooker and his family made for him to travel to Las Vegas to compete. More importantly, the image showed the right way to do things after a UFC event.

Every UFC fighter returning from a UFC event should quarantine for two weeks and then receive a COVID-19 test before they can return to their home, train or mingle with the public. Anything less than that reveals an enormous gap in the UFC s COVID-19 protocol.

According to its own documentation, the UFC stops short of this requirement, even with its more robust COVID-19 plan for events on Yas Island in July.

The COVID-19 document the UFC released for Fight Island ends with a COVID-19 test after the events and before travel home. Which means people who are returning from Yas Island could contract COVID-19 even if UFC chartered flights deliver them to hub cities before they travel on to their ultimate destinations.

That last step of quarantining and then testing would make sure everyone who plays a role in a UFC event is safe and healthy when they set foot inside their homes.

The UFC added pre-travel COVID-19 tests to the Fight Island protocol. Those tests have done what it intended them to do, prevent those who are positive for COVID-19 from traveling to Abu Dhabi. This testing was absent from UFC Apex events, and that should change. The UFC needs to use pre-travel testing before future events there, especially if fight teams plan to use commercial flights to travel to Las Vegas for those fight cards.

Another thing the UFC has not commented on is contact tracing. With the number of positive COVID-19 tests climbing among UFC fighters and their teams, a COVID-19 plan without contact tracing is an incomplete plan.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission s COVID-19 protocol requires contact tracing:

Section IV Contact Tracing Covid-19: Must be provided at the expense of the promoter and in conjunction with the Southern Nevada Health District for any individual whose test results are positive.

The NSAC did not respond to inquiries from Bloody Elbow asking if the UFC is doing contact tracing for those who test positive. No one from the UFC responded to this question either.

With positive tests increasing, it s important that the UFC does everything it can to stop the spread of COVID-19. The promotion has made improvements, but it is still falling short especially when it comes to post-fight care.