By Peter Brennan

On Saturday night UFC became the first big sport in the United States to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic.

And a Yahoo Sports report has found that fighters are not allowed to publicly defame or disparage the company’s health and safety protocols. UFC president Dana White confirmed the clause in the contract, which would see fighters relinquish their share of a fight purse along with other financial penalties:

“If a fighter says something that isn’t true — if he says we didn’t test anyone for this — that would [violate the agreement]. But if he said something that was true, his opinion, then that is different.”

The clause was originally reported by Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza, who said that the contract would see fighters forfeit their purses if they say anything negative about the protocols:

White adamantly denied that, calling Espinoza a “scumbag” in the process for his wording on the tweet:

“It’s called an anti-disparagement clause and if I know what that is, that scumbag (Espinoza) is a lawyer and you would think he should know what that is.”

Yahoo Sports received the contract from an anonymous third party and published the relevant clause, which confirmed the potential punishment for any disparaging comments about the protocols:

“If the Participant is a Fighter, the Participant hereby acknowledges and agrees that in the event that the Participant breaches this Paragraph 7, the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant in connection with the Activities, including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.”

In the lead-up to UFC 249, Ronaldo “J’acare” Souza tested posted for the coronavirus, leading to his fight against Uriah Hall getting scratched from the card. The event also saw Joe Rogan conduct interviews in the ring without wearing a protective mask or gloves.

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