Fighters describe 'peaceful' run-up to UFC 249 amid coronavirus testing

Why Tony Ferguson is eager to fight Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 (2:03)

Tony Ferguson previews his interim lightweight title fight vs. Justin Gaethje and gives his thoughts on previously scheduled opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc. (2:03)

The UFC is looking to get back to business as usual by holding fight cards on a regular basis, beginning with UFC 249 on Saturday, but the new normal associated with the coronavirus pandemic was obvious during Thursday's media day.

For one, it was the promotion's first virtual media day as fighters -- often wearing a mask -- took a seat to answer questions from remote reporters. The area around the microphone was wiped clean between interviews as the UFC is implementing safety precautions in Jacksonville, Florida.

"I have a camera in front of me and I'm on a virtual interview, and got a swab test in my nose," featherweight Jeremy Stephens said. "So that's a little different.

"It's a new experience, so it's kind of fun and exciting to me. As far as I'm concerned, everybody seems happy that they're being able to be here and do their job and get some entertainment. I'm blessed to be here."

Most fighters arrived Wednesday evening, and they were tested for COVID-19 via diagnostic and antibody tests, in addition to undergoing a temperature check upon arriving at the host hotel. Once they were tested, they received a wristband they must wear. Temperatures were checked again Thursday morning.

"I got tested within 15 minutes of my arrival at the hotel," said Henry Cejudo, who will defend his bantamweight championship against Dominick Cruz. "I just got here last night. I haven't left my room."

The hotel is not taking reservations, and Cejudo described the atmosphere as "peaceful."

"It's just more calm," Cejudo said. "Obviously, we know we're fighting, but it doesn't feel like fight week. It's deserted, which is actually kind of peaceful. There are no fans waiting for us. There's really no one from the outside coming in.

"For me, that's the difference, besides taking a 6-inch Q-tip up the nose as soon as I arrived at the hotel."

The diagnostic test made an impact on heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou.

"The thing in the nose is not good s---," Ngannou said. "It was the second time I did it. It was not good at all. It's too weird. I think I'd rather take a punch than take that s---."

Cruz said he appreciated the efforts by the UFC to emphasize caution and cater to the fighters.

"I feel like we're being treated like true professionals," Cruz said. "Everything's put out for us at the hotel. Everything's cleaned up for us. Everything's our own. We have our own sauna. We have our own rooms. We're treated like royalty. I feel like this is how it should be every single fight, not just during [the pandemic].

"I've never felt a fight week like this in my life."

Featherweight Calvin Kattar described a camaraderie among the fighters and their teams to face the challenges of the pandemic and put on an entertaining show in the UFC's first card since March 14.

"You run into someone, it's like, 'We'll take the next elevator,"' Kattar said. "We're all doing our part to be respectful of other people's boundaries, and UFC is trying to take their precautionary measures. We're all just trying to make it happen."

As far as the nasal swab, Kattar said: "If that's the most pain I feel all week, I've done my job."