US President Trump congratulated UFC for restarting the sports world Saturday night after a nearly two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump’s taped message was played during ESPN’s broadcast of the UFC 249 undercard from a fan-free arena in Jacksonville.
“I want to congratulate (UFC President) Dana White and the UFC,” Trump said. “They’re going to have a big match. We love it. We think it’s important. Get the sports leagues back. Let’s play. Do the social distancing and whatever else you have to do. We need sports. We want our sports back. Congratulations to Dana White and UFC.”
UFC 249 served as the first major sporting event to take place since the global pandemic shut down much of the country nearly eight weeks ago. It was originally scheduled for April 18 in New York, but was postponed in hopes of helping slow the spread of COVID-19.
The mixed martial arts behemoth is holding three shows in eight days in Jacksonville, where state officials deemed professional sports with a national audience exempt from a stay-at-home order as long as “the location is closed to the general public.”
The UFC came up with a 25-page document to address health and safety protocols, procedures that led to Jacaré Souza testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall was canceled late Friday. Souza’s two cornermen also tested as positive, the UFC said in a statement.
“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,” the UFC said.
The positive results surely increased the focus on the event. Every other sport is watching closely to see how it plays out. White previously said Trump wants the event to serve as a blueprint for the return of live sports.