The U.F.C. had fighters agree to not criticize its handling of the coronavirus.

The news that fighter Ronaldo Souza, known as Jacare, and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus Friday night drove home how difficult it is to safely hold events during a pandemic. But if any other fighters have concerns, you probably will not hear about them, as the U.F.C. clamped down on criticism of its health and safety guidelines.

U.F.C. 249 fighters could lose significant amounts of money if they “suggest or communicate” that the event is being held “without appropriate health, safety or other precautions,” according to a copy of a participation agreement obtained by The New York Times. If fighters violate this provision, the U.F.C. may “revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant.” These can include “purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.”

Asked for a comment on the contract, a spokeswoman for the U.F.C. pointed to an interview Dana White did with Yahoo Sports, where he said that only untrue statements about the U.F.C.’s health and safety procedures would violate the non-disparagement clause.

Nothing in the agreement obtained by the Times says that only untrue statements can be punished.

Bryce Mitchell dominates Charles Rosa in three rounds heavy on grappling.

On Friday afternoon, U.F.C. featherweight contender Bryce Mitchell posted a photo of himself engaged in a post-weigh-in staredown with his opponent, Charles Rosa.

Time to cook em to the bone,” the caption read.

A day later Mitchell, a 25-year-old submission specialist, spent three rounds mauling Rosa, dragging him to the canvas and running him though an endless series of chokes, arm cranks, and other holds designed to make opponents quit.

Rosa, a 33-year-old jiu-jitsu black belt, figured to challenge Mitchell if their bout turned into a grappling match, but the third time Mitchell pretzeled himself around Rosa and yanked on his arm, it was clear which fighter was more skilled in fighting on the ground.

Mitchell won on all three judges’ cards, and is now 13-0, with nine wins by submission. Rosa moves to 12-4 overall.

Ryan Spann wins the first bout of the night with a split decision.

Ryan Spann, left, won a split decision over Sam Alvey in the first bout of U.F.C. 249.Credit…Douglas P. Defelice/Getty Images

Ryan Spann finished the fight wobbly. Veteran light-heavyweight Sam Alvey hit him hard several times in the final round of the opening bout of U.F.C. 249, catching Spann with a short right hook, and later landing a flurry of blows before the final horn.

But Spann, a 28-year-old contender, had already won the first two rounds, and emerged with a split decision win.

A second-round kick to Alvey’s head drew a reaction from octagon-side announcers, and likely would have triggered cheers from spectators. Except Spann and Alvey met in a near-empty arena, with fans prohibited because of the coronavirus pandemic. Their bout had the feel of an exhibition, with the venue so quiet the camera’s mics picked up instructions from the fighters’ corners and even the athletes breathing.

Spann used well-timed front kicks and right hands to control the first two rounds, and improved his overall pro record to 18-5. Saturday’s loss was Alvey’s fourth straight defeat.

The fights come as the sports world has been yearning for live events.

Tony Ferguson, right, is looking to win an interim lightweight title at U.F.C. 249 on Saturday night, facing Justin Gaethje.Credit…John Locher/Associated Press

As televised live sports ground to a halt in mid-March, sports channels turned to their archives and served up a heaping portion of classic games. When there have been live events to show — the W.N.B.A. and N.F.L. drafts, Korean baseball — the production is stripped down and no fans are in attendance. So what will U.F.C. 249 look and sound like on television?

The arena the fights are taking place in seats 15,000, but no fans are allowed, so expect to hear a cavernous emptiness. Dana White told Sports Illustrated this week that he considered piping in crowd noise or some sort of virtual crowd, before deciding not to. The normal in-arena D.J. will be on-site, however, and viewers will likely hear more of the fighters themselves.

The announcers will be calling the fights from near the octagon but will be sitting apart from each other. After each fight, Joe Rogan will interview the winners from at least six feet away. The U.F.C. has not revealed its camera setup, but considering it has always controlled production, it is likely to look very similar to previous events.

At the start of its telecast, a standup shot included all three announcers — Jon Anik on play-by-play and analysts Rogan and Daniel Cormier — close together and without masks. They later appeared to speak from separate tables at different spots around the octagon.
”People are starving. They’re starving for something, some action, some fun,” Rogan said.

U.F.C.’s owners insist they are not holding the bouts because of financial pressures.

Dana White went from downplaying the risk from the coronavirus to acknowledging it while insisting that the U.F.C. would be the first sport back. Why the rush?

It’s not financial, according to Mark Shapiro, the president of Endeavor, which owns the U.F.C. “We are not putting fights on to satisfy any contracts or because of any particular financial situation at Endeavor,” Shapiro said. Endeavor has $4.6 billion in debt, and has laid off, furloughed or cut the pay of a third of its 7,500 worldwide employees.

Instead, Shapiro and U.F.C. officials have said their efforts are in service of the athletes, who do not get paid unless they perform. “We have fighters itching to fight, and that have contracts that require us to put them into an octagon,” Shapiro said.

One fight was canceled because an athlete and two cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus.

Usually in early May, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is competing with the N.B.A. and N.H.L. playoffs, a full slate of baseball games and other big events like the Kentucky Derby and boxing.

Not on Saturday night, as the U.F.C. attempts to stage fights amid the coronavirus pandemic. U.F.C. 249 is being held in Jacksonville, Fla., where state authorities have deemed professional sports (and even professional wrestling) an essential business. Athletic regulators there agreed to sanction mixed martial arts bouts when other states, like New York and California, have not during the outbreak.

The event is going forward even though one of the U.F.C.’s 24 fighters, Ronaldo Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus Friday in the run-up to the fight. U.F.C. officials have been guarded about their measures to keep fighters safe during three events planned — including two next week — but they insist they can minimize the risks associated with large gatherings.