While Dana White won’t say if the promotion has been testing its fighters for coronavirus, not everyone is as tight-lipped as the UFC president.
After UFC on ESPN 8 was postponed, Francis Ngannou said he was tested for COVID-19. “The Predator” was supposed to square off against Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the event’s headliner on March 28 in Columbus, Ohio, until the Las Vegas-based organization was forced to put the card on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I got tested,” Ngannou told Submission Radio. “They got me tested for COVID-19. I guess they tested all the fighters, too, which is kind of like a positive thing. Make you feel a little bit safe to get along with those people.”
White has stated that all the postponed fights will eventually be rebooked. However, Ngannou claims there’s a chance he could compete at UFC 249, which takes place at an undisclosed location on April 18 and is headlined by a lightweight title tilt between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
“There’s a chance that I can be fighting on that card,” Ngannou said. “But you know they have to settle everything down. For now, it seems like they have a location but they still have to double check and see how they can handle this event safely for people. Because first of all, they’re not just expecting to put people there fighting. They’re also trying to make things to care about our health.”
White recently told ESPN that he has a location “99.9 percent confirmed” for UFC 249. If Ngannou does get a chance to compete at the event, he claims he won’t be worried about his safety or potentially contracting the coronavirus.
“No, I mean I won’t be concerned because once again, I don’t want to say that COVID-19 is nothing, I don’t want to say it’s not bad but technically I think it’s a flu that we have all the time,” Ngannou said. “The only problem with it is it’s very contagious and it can spread very fast. No, I wouldn’t be concerned about it. Because even after the test, I wasn’t very worried, like whatever is it, it’s gonna be OK.
“I think the thing right now is the panic. This thing has caused more panic than the real pain itself. We are panicking. Sometimes you think about it. I saw people that has cancer, I went to the hospital to see a friend, who was at the hospital for chemo and he was there about to have the chemo and he was scared about the coronavirus.”
Ngannou, who believes he would be rebooked against Rozenstruik at UFC 249, acknowledges that it’s not the ideal scenario for a fight. But he understands that nothing will be ideal under the current circumstances.
“This is not the ideal scenario for anybody right now. Nobody was expecting this thing. Nobody was prepared for this thing,” he said. “Dana, if he’s about to compromise and make things happen, we will compromise and make things happen. I don’t think the ideal scenario was for the UFC was to be three weeks away looking for a location. That wasn’t the ideal scenario.
“We’re just trying to find a solution to make this happen. Obviously, I haven’t fought for a long time and I really want to fight, but in the meantime it’s not just because I want to fight. If I feel like I’m not safe, I won’t. Nothing is worth my health.”
One thing that could be a cause for concern is the lack of available training space. The pandemic has result in the closure of gyms, and with gatherings limited, training partners are difficult to find. For Ngannou, the silver lining is that his opponent will be dealing with the same issues as him.
“My opponent has the same thing. We are all in the same condition,” Ngannou said. “It’s not like he’s somewhere, training good in the gym, sparring. No, we all are stuck.”
Already a former No. 1 contender, Ngannou has positioned himself for another title shot with successive first-round finishes of Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. However, the Nigerian-born Frenchman was booked against Rozenstruik while the promotion continues to work toward a Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier trilogy fight. Like a lot of things right now, the situation is out of Ngannou’s control.
“I didn’t need to fight Rozenstruik to get the title shot,” Ngannou said. “I believe I deserve the title shot right now even without this fight. At the end of the day it’s not my call.”