UFC 261, which will feature a full capacity crowd later this month, may not require those attending to wear a mask.
In a video posted on Twitter last month, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White dropped a huge bombshell on the mixed martial arts (MMA) community, announcing that the upcoming fight card would take place on April 24 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Florida. The PPV, unlike other sporting events, will see 15,000 fans on hand to watch a stacked card that features three title fights.
“What’s up everybody, UFC president Dana White here. And I have been waiting a year for this day, to tell you – we are back,” White said in a video posted on Twitter last month. “UFC 261 on April 24th will be in Jacksonville, Florida with a full house of fans. Full capacity at the Five Star Veterans Memorial Arena. And you know I’m bringing an incredible card.”
Following White’s announcement, MMA aficionados voiced that support for the promotion setting a precedent that other sports may soon adopt. UFC fanatics wanting to see the fans repopulate the stands reinforced initial opinions on the move to allow in-person viewing, opening their wallets when tickets for the event went on sale on March 16. Tickets for UFC 261 sold out in minutes, becoming one of the fastest sell-outs in UFC history.
But with a lingering pandemic, detractors have labeled the move as “reckless,” citing Florida’s COVID cases which have hovered between 4,000-7,000 since mid-February.
Despite concerns for COVID-19, UFC 261 has not implemented any restrictions on fans entering the buildings. To date, attendees will not be required to social distance, get tested for COVID-19, or show proof of vaccination. Fans may also not be required to wear masks, something that remains a point of contention across the country as many argue their effectiveness in preventing the spread of the virus.
Jacksonville’s mask mandate, which had been in place since June of last year, was lifted the same day tickets went on sale for UFC 261. Mayor Lenny Curry has declined to renew the city’s mandate.
While the UFC has not issued guidelines for the event, it has included a warning to ticket buyers, stating that ‘death’ or ‘permanent disability could occur due to the possibility of COVID-19 exposure. If a fan contracts the virus they can not hold the UFC, the venues, or other parties liable.
“By purchasing or otherwise accepting a ticket to this Event, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus) exists in any public place where people are present. By attending the Event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus), and agree not to hold UFC (Zuffa,LLC), ASM Global, Inc., SMG, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, and City of Jacksonville for any illness or injury in connection with your or your guests’ attendance at the Event,” the fine print on the ticket reads.
— MMA mania (@mmamania) March 26, 2021
The Capitolist reached out to city officials regarding mask and other protocols for the event, but did not receive a response.