UFC President Dana White says fans will not be required to wear masks at UFC 261.
The event is notable for many reasons. The card features three title fights and will mark the return of fans in attendance after a year of events without any. White has announced the safety protocols ahead of what will presumably be one of the biggest events of the year. When asked about mask rules for attendees, White revealed they were optional.
“There’s still going to be some things that are set in place. We’re still going to have a bubble for the athletes, and things like that. But as far as the fans, you can wear a mask, or you can not wear a mask. It’s up to you. It’s your decision," White told Yahoo! Sports (h/t Bloody Elbow). "The reality is, we had to create a bubble that would be safe, so first of all, the athletes wouldn’t end up with COVID and have all these fights falling out. But the media was being so crazy about the whole COVID thing, you had to make the media feel safe."
“In Jacksonville, everything is opening up again. Even in Vegas, it’s going to be open June 1st, but 100% open in July,” he continued. “There’s still going to be some things that are set in place. We’re still going to have a bubble for the athletes, and things like that. But as far as the fans, you can wear a mask, or you can not wear a mask. It’s up to you. It’s your decision.”
White confirmed all UFC staff in Nevada have received vaccinations; however, vaccinations for fighters and employees in other states cannot be guaranteed.
“What we did is all of our employees have been vaccinated — we made sure that all of our employees that are here with a Nevada residence have vaccinated,” the UFC boss shared. “The problem is state to state. I have employees in California, and the ring card girls, and stuff like that too. They don’t like giving it out to people from other states."
“So whatever states the fighters live in, they need to check with their local people and see about getting vaccinated.”
Despite face masks being optional, the UFC will be providing free masks to all the fans. TSN's Aaron Bronsteter posted the announcement, which includes the UFC partnering with O2 Industries to donate roughly 5,000 respirators to the Red Cross.
The UFC announce that they will be providing free face coverings to those attending UFC 261 and UFC 262.— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) April 20, 2021
In addition, the UFC have partnered with O2 Industries to donate more than 5,000 premium respirators to the Red Cross for use in emergency situations. pic.twitter.com/7D4KwXPttz
UFC 261 sold out in minutes and broke the arena record for the highest-grossing event. UFC is also partnering with Clear, according to ESPN's Ariel Helwani, and will be using their Health Pass application. All ticket holders are required to use the application and answer confidential health questions in order to "identify the multiple layers of COVID-19-related health information to help reduce public health risk."
Per a release: "Health Pass is a free, mobile experience by CLEAR that securely connects a user’s verified identity to multiple layers of COVID-19-related health information to help reduce public health risk."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 20, 2021
“… creating a seamless and expedited entry into the arena for those who are issued a green notification on their Health Pass app."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 20, 2021
"Ticket holders who opt not to use the electronic version of CLEAR will be directed to a kiosk outside of VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to complete a hard copy of the health questionnaire."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 20, 2021
As of April 19th, Florida's seven-day average for new cases hovers around 6,700 and appears to be rising.