UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) President Dana White said Thursday the MMA organization will not require its fighters to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I would never tell another human being what to do with their body. If you want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you. That’s your choice. You’re never gonna hear me say I’m gonna force people to get vaccinated. Never gonna happen,” White said in an interview with TSN.
White then cited New York City officials this week mandating vaccine passes for people trying to enter a bar, restaurant, gym, or theater.
“They’re telling you in New York you can’t go into a restaurant or a gym unless you’re vaccinated and can prove it and things like that,” White said. “Some people are getting fired if they don’t get vaccinated. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen here. You wanna get vaccinated? Get vaccinated. If you don’t, that’s your decision, your body.”
White has been the UFC’s chief executive for decades, helping transform the company—and MMA—from a niche spectacle into one of the most popular sports in the world. White, also a longtime friend of former President Donald Trump, endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020.
The UFC hosted its first event in New York City in 2016 after a longtime statewide ban was rescinded earlier that year. And generally, the most prominent UFC events are held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
But the UFC is planning to return to New York City’s Madison Square Garden for UFC 268 on Nov. 6. Lightweight Michael Chandler told news outlets that his fight with Justin Gaethje could be in jeopardy due to the city’s vaccination policy.
“I just saw that New York is dropping some heavy mandates on the city of New York City,” Chandler said. “Basically, they’re requiring you to be vaccinated (and) show proof of vaccination for indoor dining, indoor fitness, and indoor performances and entertainment. Obviously a UFC card, a UFC fight being thrown at Madison Square Garden is considered indoor entertainment and indoor performance.”
He added: “I will not be vaccinated at that point. I don’t know how many fighters, if I was to fight on that Nov. 6 card—or whoever is fighting on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden—I don’t know how many fighters will be vaccinated. I don’t really have a tally on who is or isn’t.”
Meanwhile, White’s comments came weeks after the NFL sent out a memo to all 32 teams advising players and staff to get vaccinated or face penalties, including possibly forfeiting games. That led to some players to post on Twitter in protest of the policy.