How a mass crowd gathered in a Jax arena for the UFC 261 during a pandemic

Shelby Senesac, News Editor

On April 24, more than 15,000 people sat shoulder to shoulder at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown Jacksonville to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 261 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was social distancing seemingly nonexistent during the event, but many of the attendees were also mask-less.

“JACKSONVILLE, FL – APRIL 24: General view of the sold out crowd on hand for UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.” (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) / Photo retrieved from Rolling Stone

Spinnaker reached out to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to see what safety precautions were taken for the event. Spinnaker was then referred to UFC’s Senior Director of Public Relations who provided a link to UFC’s website which listed COVID-19 precautions UFC and the arena took in advance of UFC 261.

Guests were required to complete a confidential COVID-related health questionnaire in advance. UFC partnered with CLEAR and utilized CLEAR’s “Health Pass” to “more safely welcome fans back.” CLEAR’s “Health Pass” is an app that connects a user’s verified identity to various layers of COVID-19-related health information to assist in reducing public health risk.

 According to an article published in Rolling Stone, in addition to guests being required to complete the health questionnaire, “each person had to sign a liability waiver that, in the scenario in which exposure to the virus did occur, the UFC would not be held accountable for any health consequences.”

 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been pushing to get the state back to normal (pre-COVID). During UFC 261’s pre-fight news conference which took place a few days before the fight, DeSantis welcomed guests and referred to Florida as the “oasis of freedom.”

 While many people are excited to see things slowly going back to normal, others were disappointed with the lack of safety precautions taken at the event. Twitter erupted with countless users slamming UFC, Florida, and those who attended UFC 261. Several users called the lack of masks “disturbing.”

Disturbing or not, Florida is welcoming large events such as UFC 261 with open arms despite the ongoing pandemic.


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