Miami (AFP)

The UFC, the largest professional mixed martial arts (MMA) league, resumed behind closed doors Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida, despite a positive coronavirus test from one of the fighters on the program and while all other sports are stationary in the country.

The case of Covid-19 infection by Brazilian Ronaldo Jacare Souza, announced Friday evening by the broadcaster ESPN, and the cancellation of his fight, did not prevent the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" from resuming its rights, at the great satisfaction of his boss Dana White.

"It worked out well," welcomed the president of the UFC, who had obtained the green light from the boxing doctors and MMA to resume, provided he respected precautions against the coronavirus.

The evening was marked by the triumph of the American Justin Gaethje, who won the interim lightweight title at the expense of his compatriot Tony Ferguson. "The Highlight" won by technical knockout in the fifth round.

Gaethje, 31, can now claim a fight against undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, in an attempt to claim the regular lightweight title. The Russian star of MMA had given up in early April to face Ferguson at UFC 249 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the heavyweight category, the Franco-Cameroonian Francis Ngannou only needed him 20 seconds to defeat the Surinamese Jairzinho Rozenstruick.

Eleven fights were on the program of UFC 249, organized at the Veterans Memorial Stadium (15,000 seats) which sounded hollow in the absence of spectators.

While the sport is almost paralyzed in the world, as the NBA and the NHL, among others, are suspended due to the pandemic, the UFC is the first major American sports body to return to its competitions, after being criticized for to have tried to do it, in vain, three weeks ago in California.

In a recorded and broadcast message during the evening, President of the United States Donald Trump congratulated Dana White on the return of the UFC.

"Restart the sports leagues. Let's play," said the President. "You are doing social distancing and everything else you have to do, but we need sports. We want our sports back," added Donald Trump.

© 2020 AFP