Gilbert Burns is out of his main event showdown with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman after testing positive for COVID-19. Due to take place at next weekend’s UFC 251 event on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, news broke in the early hours with multiple sources reporting that Burns had tested positive for the virus in Las Vegas along with brother Herbert Burns and coach Greg Jones. Although not officially confirmed by Burns himself, a post on social media earlier this morning seemed to confirm the news that all involved would have been dreading.
As is the protocol within the UFC surrounding COVID-19, Burns had been tested prior to departing to Yas Island to avoid similar situations like those experienced with Jacaré Souza at UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida, back in May.
No news has yet been confirmed as to whether the UFC will be looking to reschedule the fight for later in the year or seek to find a late replacement for Burns, with MMA fighting reporting that both Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington have both already put themselves forward.
With Burns withdrawal, this hasn’t been a good week or so for the UFC and COVID-19 related pull outs. Both Anderson dos Santos and Vinicius Moreira have been pulled from their respective fights against Jack Shore and Modestas Bukauskas on July 15th having both tested positive for the virus. The July 15th card also lost the Carla Esparza vs Marina Rodriguez fight after Rodriguez’s cornerman tested positive.
There is also doubt surrounding Tagir Ulanbekov’s fight against Aleksander Doskalchuk on July 15 and Umar Nurmagomedov’s fight with Nathaniel Wood on July 25th after both fighters cancelled their flights to Yas Island following the death of Umar’s uncle, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov due to coronavirus related complications.
All in all, this has been exactly what the UFC would have been dreading since they announced a return to action during the pandemic. Up until now, things have gone off without any major incident and the stringent measures in place have, to date, proved their worth. However, no matter what the UFC does in house, the fact is that fighters and those in close proximity are still contracting the virus and will continue to do so while COVID-19 is still rampant in certain countries around the world.