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UFC 249 fighters sign COVID-19 waiver, includes non-disparagement clause

This story was updated at 12:00 AM Eastern.

Image: Yahoo

UFC 249 fighters had to sign a waiver that included a clause they would not disparage or defame the company over the health and safety protocols put in place this week due to COVID-19 or else face losing their fight purse and bonuses.

Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza tweeted about the clause Saturday in replying to a question and Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole confirmed the clause with UFC president Dana White who claimed it is in all company contracts.

ESPN's Marc Raimondi reported that all participants for the event, including fighters and media, had to sign waivers which include the assumption of risk if they test positive for COVID-19, releasing the company from any responsibility. Sources also told him the language is atypical to previous contracts and they are common in legal contracts. It's unclear how the non-disparagement clause would apply to media members, if at all.

White told Iole that there wouldn't be any issue if a fighter's negative comments were true:

“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."

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

The clause, courtesy of Erik MaGraken, is as follows:

"The Participant shall not, and shall cause its affiliates, agents and representatives not to, defame or disparage any of the Released Parties in any medium whatsoever in connection with the Activities. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Participant will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity that the Activities have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to COVID-19 or otherwise.

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."

Espinoza later tweeted that it's "a COVID clause. Hasn't been around long before COVID" and "If that is in every UFC contract, as some claim, then someone over there can foretell the future."

The New York Times asked for comment and were referred to the Iole story. The Times also noted nothing in the clause indicates that only untrue statements can be punished.

It's unknown whether fighters competing this Wednesday and next Saturday also have the clauses in their contracts.

The UFC had one fighter (Jacare Souza) and two of his cornermen test positive for COVID-19 after Souza told officials upon arriving Wednesday that a close relative of his had the virus. The team's positive tests were made known Friday after Souza had weighed in at which point he was pulled from the card.