Major sport returns for first time during coronavirus pandemic as UFC 249 takes place in Florida in front of empty seats with eerie atmosphere
- UFC 249 is first major sporting event to return during coronavirus pandemic
- Behind closed doors fights were held in Florida with no crowd and eerie silence
- One UFC fighter tested positive for Covid-19 but the event still went ahead
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Major sport returned for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic as UFC 249 took place without fans in Florida.
The leading mixed martial arts promotion overcame controversy and a huge number of logistical headaches to put on their event in Jacksonville.
One fighter, Jacare Souza, was scheduled to take centre stage but tested positive for Covid-19. His result did not lead to a cancellation of the show.
The fights took place with a skeleton production crew and no fans inside the stadium
UFC 249 was the first major sport to make a return during the coronavirus crisis
Only a handful of media, broadcast and production personnel were permitted to watch the action, along with the fighters, their teams and officials.
VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena is usually filled with roaring fans but on Saturday night there was eerie quiet.
As the first fights took place and supporters managed to quench their thirst for live sport through the live broadcast, it was a bizarrely different experience to usual.
The backdrop was turned to black on the broadcast to help hide the empty seats
The fighters did not have the roar of the crowd to help them get through tough moments
Every strike and kick echoed and the shouted instructions from coaching teams were audible when they’d usually be drowned out.
The commentary team attempted to bring an enthusiasm to proceedings but there was still an inevitably flat feeling.
Fighters walked out to music, were announced by Bruce Buffer and given the final instructions by the referee and the UFC did everything to make the experience feel as close to their customary events as possible.
Everyone in the arena had been forced to go through extensive testing to gain access to the event and the UFC’s rigorous safety measures may well be mirrored by other sports as the lockdown measures ease in the months ahead.
The athletes walked to the octagon with their entourage before stepping into the cage