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Weight loss exercise Tales from Jacksonville: How the UFC returned with 3 cards in 8 days


Weight loss exercise Tales from Jacksonville: How the UFC returned with 3 cards in 8 days

May 20, 2020Marc RaimondiBrett OkamotoCloseESPN Staff WriterMMA columnist for Analyst for “MMA Live” Covered MMA for Las Vegas SunMarcus Gaethje was at dinner with his twin brother, Justin. It was May 8, and the Gaethjes and a few of Justin’s coaches had settled in at Chart House, an upscale seafood restaurant on the riverfront…

Weight loss exercise Tales from Jacksonville: How the UFC returned with 3 cards in 8 days

Weight loss exercise

Would possibly maybe 20, 2020

  • Marc Raimondi

  • Brett Okamoto


    weight loss exercise

    ESPN Group Creator

    • MMA columnist for
    • Analyst for “MMA Reside”
    • Coated MMA for Las Vegas Sun

Marcus Gaethje was once at dinner along with his twin brother, Justin. It was once Would possibly maybe 8, and the Gaethjes and a few of Justin’s coaches had settled in at Chart Home, an upscale seafood restaurant on the riverfront in Jacksonville, Florida.

About 24 hours later, Justin was once scheduled to headline UFC 249, the principle predominant wearing match in almost two months. The card would use place internal an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and characteristic Justin taking up Tony Ferguson for the UFC intervening time light-weight title. Marcus would motivate work his brother’s nook.

While on the desk, the team noticed news on social media they plan could perchance build the card in jeopardy. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, a fighter scheduled for the UFC 249 prelims, tested sure — along with two of his cornermen — for the coronavirus.

The UFC said in a assertion that Souza and his corners were asymptomatic and were eliminated from the host resort and told to isolate off premises.

“Justin said, ‘Man, I’m hoping they assemble no longer cancel the match,'” Marcus recalled. “No one called us or the relaxation; we chanced on out cherish every person else, on the online. So, we were more or less freaked out, looking out to figure out what was once occurring.”

UFC president Dana White said UFC 249 was once the hardest allege the promotion ever confronted. First and foremost scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, Unique York, with a predominant match of Ferguson vs. champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, the match modified areas and war configurations due to coronavirus pandemic, unless deciding on the lineup for Jacksonville. And now this, decrease than 24 hours earlier than the principle war.

But even though the Souza news disrupted Justin Gaethje‘s dinner, it didn’t contain an impress on his bout. Souza’s war in opposition to Uriah Hall was once pulled, and the card went on. Gaethje was once spectacular in beating Ferguson by fifth-round TKO to converse the intervening time belt in a single in every of the twelve months’s handiest fights.

UFC 249 no longer was once a allege White wished to solve. He now described it as an unqualified success, a testament to the precautions his promotion took right in the course of the pandemic and an instance for diverse sports to seem at in returning to normalcy. But it was once factual the starting of a historical, eight-day stretch that could characteristic two heaps of cards with memorable fights, moments and late-the-scenes controversy that blended to originate a clear legacy for the UFC’s Jacksonville experience.

Tuesday, Would possibly maybe 5

Calvin Kattar and his coach, Tyson Chartier, were checking into their resort rooms on the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Jacksonville when Gain Font, Kattar’s teammate and a fellow UFC fighter, approached with pressing data about another coach on the physique of workers.

A short while earlier, Kattar’s physique of workers had taken two separate assessments for COVID-19. One was once for antibodies — no longer the active virus — in a finger-reduce blood test that produces results in 15 minutes. The heaps of was once a diagnostic nasal swab test that is disbursed to a lab.

Kattar, Chartier and Font all tested unfavorable for the antibody. The heaps of coach tested sure, Chartier said.

A UFC reliable defined to the team that the promotion was once going to direct another room and the coach who tested sure wished to conclude there — remoted — unless the outcomes came aid from his diagnostic test.

“We weren’t allowed in his room,” Chartier said. “We would talk over with him on the phone, but we weren’t allowed in his room.

“He was once ordering Uber Eats and calling room service. For essentially the most fraction, he was once factual playing video games always. He brought his PS4 with him. It was once a sexy laid-aid week for him.”

Chartier, even though, didn’t know if the quarantined coach would test sure for the active virus — the outcomes wouldn’t be known for about a days. So, he called UFC welterweight Anthony Rocco Martin, who is end with the physique of workers, to explore if he could also drive from his home in Atlanta and nook Kattar for his war in opposition to Jeremy Stephens. Martin said he could also.

“The UFC handled the complete lot completely, but it was once factual the unknown,” Chartier said. “It was once an 18-week aspect twin carriageway to get the place we’re going. The uncertainty of how the virus works, how the assessments were gonna work, we didn’t know. We were factual going in the course of the plot for the principle time.”

Wednesday, Would possibly maybe 6

Henry Cejudo said he had a 6-trail cotton swab caught up his nose within 15 minutes of arriving on the resort. Varied than that, the bantamweight champ described the scene as “aloof.”

Throughout odd UFC pay-per-peep war weeks, the resort lobby is bustling with followers, opponents’ family, teammates and media. There wasn’t grand congregating this time around. Most other folks passing through wore masks. These enthralling with the match were required to contain on each day basis scientific screenings, which integrated temperature assessments. That they needed to position on credentials. Any individual could also leave the resort, but they were suggested to book clear of gatherings.

“It be factual more light,” Cejudo said. “Clearly, we know we’re struggling with, but it would no longer feel cherish war week. It be deserted, which is always more or less aloof. There usually are no longer any followers looking out forward to us. There could be in fact no one from the outside coming in.

“For me, that is the inequity, moreover taking a 6-trail Q-tip up the nose.”

Test quantity 3. COVID19 free

— danawhite (@danawhite) Would possibly maybe 15, 2020

The diagnostic test was once no longer very in trend with quite a bit of of the opponents, most of whom arrived on Would possibly maybe 6.

“The agree with the nose is no longer correct s—,” heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou said. “It was once the second time I did it. It was once no longer correct the least bit. It be too odd. I notify I would barely use a punch than use that s—.”

For Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, the resort was once factual a spot to get tested. He slept in his RV.

Cerrone left his ranch advance Albuquerque, Unique Mexico, on Would possibly maybe 5 and drove 26 hours within the RV — with some breaks at truck stops. Cerrone, who was once scheduled to war Anthony Pettis, did the total wheel work. Accompanying him were coaches John Wood, Jafari Vanier and Rodrigo Donoso.

Although Cerrone was once slicing weight, the team subsisted on gas set meals for essentially the most fraction, in conjunction with a stay at Buc-ee’s in Unique Braunfels, Texas, which bills itself as the enviornment’s largest convenience retailer. But the retailer didn’t contain what Cerrone was once craving: boiled peanuts.

“I notify we would had been in Florida by the point we at last bought them,” Wood said with fun. “In every single place was once out of them or didn’t contain them. He was once all about them, but they were lovely atrocious. They tasted cherish raw potatoes or something. I didn’t seek data from the attract them.”

Thursday, Would possibly maybe 7

By now, every UFC 249 fighter had arrived in Jacksonville. The UFC problem up a digital media day for newshounds who weren’t on-problem. It rotated opponents into a room with a chair and a pc on a desk. The home was once sanitized between interviews.

“Any heaps of war week you trail and the mat room is rotund, it is 1,000 degrees,” Chartier said. “You’re feeling cherish that you just would be able to perchance no longer get a workout. You’re feeling cherish every person is gazing you work out. Half of the time you find yourself working out within the resort room and factual trail the beds.”

UFC Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer was once doing exactly that in his room on the Hyatt Regency.

“I stayed in my room,” he said. “I took walks around the riverfront on my have, with a cowl and the complete lot else, but then I trained every single day. What I would carry out is, the lounge I had in my room, I spaced out the furnishings, and I would both put together myself or I in actuality contain a trainer that I did some digital coaching with, every single day. I didn’t even trail to the gymnasium. I didn’t contain the maids come in. I purchased masses of towels. I needed to conclude as stable as seemingly.”

Friday, Would possibly maybe 8

The overall opponents and corners were once more tested for COVID-19 with nasal swabs at weigh-ins.

Souza weighed in successfully, wearing a cowl and — no longer like heaps of opponents — gloves. Minutes later, he engaged in a promotional see-down with Hall but didn’t get end to him. He then fist-bumped White and was once seen on a social media video interacting with heavyweight Fabricio Werdum presently after weigh-ins.

Throughout the see-downs, Kattar’s physique of workers bought note that the swab test came aid unfavorable for the coach who was once quarantined, and he was once cleared to nook.

Souza was once no longer as fortunate.

Uriah Hall confirmed compassion after his #UFC249 opponent Jacare tested sure for the coronavirus.

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) Would possibly maybe 9, 2020

That evening, the UFC launched that Souza and two of his cornermen tested sure for the coronavirus and had been taken off premises. Souza, who told the UFC someone in his family could perchance had been uncovered to COVID-19, was once out of the war with Hall. But the match would composed trail on. White said “the system labored.”

“I was once very unhappy to no longer be ready to war at UFC 249, but I desire you to know that, as rapidly as I’m medically cleared, I’m hoping to reschedule my war with Uriah Hall so that I will positioned on the display hide that every person expects,” Souza wrote on Instagram. “I thank my corners for the partnership, my opponent for the words of abet and the UFC for the total care.”

Saturday, Would possibly maybe 9

This was all once more than factual a canceled war for Hall. He had moved from Las Vegas to Dallas in November to put together at Fortis MMA gymnasium, and his hire ended the day he was once scheduled to trail along with the stream to Brooklyn for the April 18 card. When that was once delayed, Hall moved into the gymnasium and lived there unless traveling to Florida for a war which would perchance be canceled.

Hall was once having breakfast along with his two coaches and longtime MMA photographer Cooper Neill, who had passed through quarantine with Hall while chronicling his chronicle in Dallas.

“Cowboy came by, checked out Uriah and told him, ‘If my war goes well, we can even composed war Wednesday or Saturday,'” Neill said. “Uriah checked out him cherish he was once joking, but Cowboy said, ‘No, I’m serious. I’m weighing 181 pounds, and we’re going to war at middleweight [which has a 185-pound limit].’

“I know Cowboy, and he wasn’t doing this for display hide or the relaxation. He wasn’t doing it to get tweets or the relaxation cherish that. He was once if truth be told providing to war Uriah Hall. He knew Uriah wished a war.”

That evening, within the principle UFC war for the reason that closed-enviornment card in Brazil on March 14, Ryan Spann beat Sam Alvey by split choice. Later on, UFC coloration commentator Joe Rogan surprisingly bought into the Octagon and interviewed Spann. The UFC had said there wouldn’t be postfight interviews within the Octagon to take care of social distancing. Spann’s coach, Sayif Saud, was once pleased Rogan went forward with it anyway.

“He was once giving Ryan fancy,” said Saud, who runs Fortis MMA. “Ryan bought his moment. We were the principle physique of workers within the principle sport to take for the reason that pandemic. That will ceaselessly be us.”

Fighters were brought to the venue about 90 minutes earlier than their bouts, which is heaps of than right through a typical match when teams advance about 2½ to a couple hours earlier than the war. The UFC wished to forestall as grand mixing as seemingly. The locker room areas were sanitized earlier than new teams entered. About four to 6 teams were right in the course of the venue at a given time.

“The full lot was once light,” Chartier said. “That they had a plan, and as well they executed it.”

Gaethje obtained the foremost match to problem up a title unification bout with Nurmagomedov. It was once the largest take of Gaethje’s profession, problem in opposition to the backdrop of empty seats and masked personnel cageside.

“The walkout was once for inch the largest inequity for me for my fraction,” Marcus Gaethje said. “I allege every person, there could be no feeling that could match the walkout with the team there. That’s a sense that you just would be able to perchance no longer reproduction in any scenario. So, doing it with out the followers, it was all once more or less cherish, ‘OK, right here’s cool … uhhh, it is no longer the identical.’ It almost felt cherish it was once choreographed, cherish it was once a note roam earlier than the fights starting up, a inch-through for the published.

“If you happen to could also be walking out with a crowd, you seek data from the faces, there are arms looking out to excessive-five you, you get that shot of adrenaline. … After we walked in, it was once factual flat. I assemble no longer even know easy display hide it.”

The dynamic prolonged beyond the opponents and their corners.

“I would hear heaps of coaches name out heaps of plays the utilization of their coded language, and I would be ready to explore what the fighter did,” said Neill, who was once positioned between a mediate and one in every of the corners. “And the following time they called it out, I would contain an conception of what their fighter was once about to carry out, which was once very attention-grabbing. It was once cherish I was once given the play 5 to 6 seconds upfront.

“I would prefer to explain it was once Cejudo’s nook that called for ‘noodle,’ and it was once a low leg kick. So every time I would hear them name out ‘noodle’ once more, I would zoom out to be clear I was once getting a rotund-physique shot and the leg kick would be within the frame. So that modified the plot I approached it.”

Tuesday, Would possibly maybe 12

Hall wasn’t the excellent one who experienced the frustration of a canceled war.

Marvin Vettori had been scheduled to war March 21 in London. He flew there from California absolute most life like to contain the card canceled. He returned to California hoping to compete about a days later in a relocated match. That card also was once scrapped. Vettori spent 22 hours within the air over two days for nothing.

The native of Italy was once rebooked in opposition to Karl Roberson for Would possibly maybe 13, but low success struck once more. Roberson missed weight on Would possibly maybe 12 by 1½ pounds. He become in miserable health due to a low weight cut later that evening and needed to be hospitalized.

By the following morning, Vettori chanced on out from his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, that the bout was once off and Vettori had made another day out in ineffective.

“F—ing nightmare once more, man,” Vettori said.

Tempers and frustrations flared on the resort the morning of Would possibly maybe 13. Vettori said he approached Roberson and his coaches and requested what occurred. Roberson within the foundation gave the impression contrite, Vettori said, so he was once about to inch away.

Consistent with Vettori, Roberson then said he heard Vettori articulate right through an interview that Roberson was once terrified to war him. Vettori doubled down: “I said, ‘Hell yeah, I notify that.'”

Vettori plan Roberson was once readying to war and launched into a profane verbal assault. Roberson’s coach, Brian Wright, wrote on Instagram that Vettori “ambushed us within the resort lobby to create a scene and pretend he is a fancy guy.”

The two were separated by UFC security.

“I factual misplaced it over there,” Vettori said. “I was once barely bit upset for the plot I reacted.

“No longer too grand with [the reaction to Roberson], but for the protection. The protection guys from the UFC, they’re essentially the most handy.”

Two days later, Vettori weighed in for the second time in four days, this time as an alternative for the Would possibly maybe 16 card. But no one wished an opponent, and he once more was once with out a foe.

Now Vettori is in California, hoping to be added to a UFC card subsequent month.

“There desires to be a nice end to this total unhappy, f—ing length,” Vettori said. “There desires to be a undeniable end. I in actuality contain to come out on top. No longer factual in opposition to my subsequent opponent. I in actuality contain to come out on top of this scenario. It become personal.”

Wednesday, Would possibly maybe 13

The return of the UFC helped ignite the busiest weekend for bettors and bookmakers since mid-March, and featherweight Brian Kelleher played a job in a clear bet paying off for the boss’ friend.

Kelleher knocked out Hunter Azure with a blinding left hook within the second round of his war.

Later on, White pulled him aside. Azure obtained the principle round, and Kelleher become an immense underdog on stay betting sites going into the second.

“His friend positioned of project on me — a colossal bet,” Kelleher said. “And swish after the bet, I knocked this guy out. He didn’t allege me how grand, but I was once cherish, ‘Dana, can I get barely percentage of that or what?'”

That did no longer relatively work out, but Kelleher earned a $50,000 Fight of the Evening bonus.

“As rapidly as I caught him and he fell aid, I will even hear [commentators Jon Anik and Paul Felder] trail, ‘Ohh!'” Kelleher said. ” after they converse. I heard that crystal sure. It was once cherish, oh man, they know I purchased him. He’s carried out swish now.”

The sounds in and around the cage were a regular thread in the course of the three cards. UFC strawweight Carla Esparza and heavyweight Greg Hardy both said they heard commentator — and extinct two-division champion — Daniel Cormier on the name and adjusted their systems due to it.

On the Would possibly maybe 13 card, Ricky Simon flexed when he heard the commentators articulate how colossal he was once in comparison with opponent Ray Borg.

“It was once the funniest factor I’ve ever seen in my life,” Anik said. “I carried out caring about [fighters hearing me] lovely rapid, due to when there could be a seminal blow or a punch, it is miles a need to to punctuate it on the commentary, so it didn’t contain an impress on the plot I in actuality called the end of fights.”

After Simon bought the take over Borg, coaches Colin Oyama and Fabiano Scherner went to the pinnacle of the enviornment to search out out what it would survey and sound cherish. They watched the co-predominant match between Ovince Saint Preux and Ben Rothwell.

“It’s good to additionally hear the echoes of the punches and the kicks,” Oyama said. “Even after they hit the fence, that you just would be able to perchance also hear that. It was once for inch loud.”

In the foremost match, referee Jason Herzog needed to block out, among heaps of things, the sounds of the commentators, no longer an unprecedented note for officials. While Glover Teixeira was once raining down punches on Anthony Smith, Felder and Cormier were speaking about how the war could also composed be stopped.

“In that particular war, I in fact assemble no longer contain in options listening to other folks converse the relaxation cherish, ‘Discontinue the war,'” Herzog said. “If that occurred, I didn’t hear it. … To be a correct reliable, that you just would be able to perchance also composed be within the present moment totally. Strive to be centered on what’s occurring cherish the opponents are centered on what’s occurring.”

Social media buzzed after the war with criticism of Herzog and Smith’s nook for no longer stopping the bout earlier. Herzog later took to Twitter to allege a overall declaration that he is to blame for what occurs within the Octagon while he is officiating. Smith later said he revered Herzog and don’t contain wished his nook to remain the war.

Friday, Would possibly maybe 15

Urijah Faber stepped on the size and weighed in at 153.5 pounds. Few on the time knew what was once occurring. The UFC Hall of Famer wasn’t scheduled to compete.

The morning after his 41st birthday, Faber cut about eight pounds to get under 155 factual in case he was once wished to war Marlon Vera. Faber’s Group Alpha Male protégé Tune Yadong, a Chinese language prospect, was once having visa points, and the UFC was once in doubt if he would be eligible to war. At one point, there was once talk that Tune could also trail along with the stream to Cancun after which come aid to Jacksonville to sure customs.

It wasn’t necessary. Tune was once cleared Friday morning, but absolute most life like after Faber cut the burden and hit the size.

“It was once all a spurious terror,” Faber told Ariel Helwani on ESPN Radio. “I’ve gotta give credit rating to the UFC. It be been a fancy, sophisticated aspect twin carriageway to get these items going in Florida. On top of that, that is no longer the excellent allege. They’re going through all varieties of freakin’ points everywhere. … I will cherish it, and I was once ready to scrap. It would had been cherish an passe-college, no-stare war.”

Saturday, Would possibly maybe 16


1: 50

After a defeat by the arms of Alistair Overeem, Walt Harris gives an emotional speech wherein he thanks all his followers and vows to come aid an even bigger fighter.

Ticket Coleman went late the curtain. He was once upset due to his pupil, Matt Brown, had been knocked out right in the course of the prelims by Miguel Baeza. While Brown was once getting checked out by the doctor, UFC reporter Megan Olivi approached Coleman for an interview.

Coleman was once careworn. His guy misplaced. What did they want to interview him about? Olivi said she’d trail over the questions with him and told Coleman to sit down down down down advance a TV.

There was once no interview. On the hide came the announcement that Kevin Randleman, Coleman’s longtime coaching accomplice and friend, would be inducted into the UFC Hall of Reputation this twelve months. Randleman died in 2016, and since then Coleman had lobbied for him to be on condition that distinction. Both men are extinct UFC heavyweight champions. Coleman already is within the Hall of Reputation.

When he realized what he was once seeing, Coleman broke down in tears.

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“I was once in fact careworn, and it took me potentially, I assemble no longer know, 30 seconds earlier than I spotted, wow,” Coleman said. “I was once factual overwhelmed with emotion. Colossal time. Bittersweet. I was once relaxed as I would be, but I was once precise emotional. I’m no longer shrinking to explain I cried. Yes, I cried. So many emotions going through me. Which capability that of he is my brother.”

Emotions also surrounded the foremost match. Walt Harris was once struggling with for the principle time since his 19-twelve months-passe stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, was once killed slack last twelve months. Harris almost beat Alistair Overeem within the principle round, but Overeem fought aid for a second-round TKO.

With Harris composed on his arms and knees, Overeem knelt beside him to give comfort.

An emotional Harris thanked the UFC for the choice.


1: 00

Ariel Helwani outlines why UFC would cherish to abet its subsequent events in Las Vegas.

“You ain’t seen the last of ‘The Colossal Impress,'” Harris said. “I’m gonna trail home, heal emotionally and bodily, and come aid better than ever.”

As for the UFC, there was once masses of optimism for pursuing a odd schedule the utilization of these new protocols starting Would possibly maybe 30.

“I’m relaxed to contain it late me,” White said on the postfight news conference. “I needed this week to be over. And it was once successful in every plot it will perchance perchance prevail. I feel abundant about it.”

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