UFC 249: Fighters could lose pay for criticising Covid-19 safety measures

Before competing, fighters were asked to sign an eight-page event participation agreement

Fighters taking part at UFC 249 in Florida could find themselves out of pocket if they publicly criticise the mixed martial art promotion's health and safety precautions for Covid-19, according to a report.

While most sports and leagues are still under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, UFC staged the first of three cards in eight days in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, with Justin Gaethje capturing the UFC interim lightweight title with a dominant victory over Tony Ferguson is the main event.

Before competing, fighters were asked to sign an eight-page event participation agreement, Reuters reported.

A non-disparagement clause in the undated agreement states that "the Participant will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity" that the events "have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to Covid-19 or otherwise."

The agreement goes on to say that if a fighter does breach this clause, "the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won ... including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties."

While fighters are signed exclusively to the leading MMA promotion, they are not employees of the UFC. As independent contractors, fighters rely heavily on purses and bonuses for their performances in the octagon.

A UFC spokesperson declined to comment on the clause and the possibility of penalties being imposed on fighters, instead referring to comments Dana White gave to Yahoo in which the UFC president said that fighters would not be punished for airing their opinions about the health and safety arrangements.

A planned middleweight bout between Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Uriah Hall on Saturday was called off after Souza tested positive for coronavirus following his arrival in Florida.