UFC veteran and BKFC fighter Paige VanZant believes she may have been infected with the COVID-19 virus shortly after her husband, Bellator fighter Austin Vanderford, was scratched from an upcoming fight due to a positive test.
VanZant, who’s expected to make her BKFC debut in November, on Monday took to Instagram to ask for fans’ help – in particular, fans with medical experience – to explain severe symptoms that followed a negative test result for COVID.
“You gave me corona,” VanZant said in a short video clip after describing her swollen left eye and a bad cough. In a video posted the same day on the couple’s YouTube page, titled “My Husband Gave Me Covid,” VanZant described symptoms similar to those infected by the virus, including a severe migraine headache that required “12 Advil.” She added she and Vanderford, who said he first tested positive four weeks ago, are now quarantined for a second time after Vanderford again tested positive for the virus and was removed from Bellator 246.
The video begins with Vanderford’s reaction to his second positive COVID test, and the couple talks about their ongoing symptoms.
“I feel terrible and I feel really sick, but I only test negative,” she said.
“I have a fever,” he adds. “I’ve lost my sense of taste and smell.”
“And I’ve had a fever of 102 yesterday,” she said.
The couple’s manager, Malki Kawa, wasn’t immediately reachable for comment. It’s unclear whether VanZant’s current situation will affect the timeline for her bare-knuckle debut.
“We will see what happens in the next week,” BKFC President David Feldman told MMA Fighting via text. “If she tests positive we will consider pushing it back.”
VanZant and Vanderford recently moved to South Florida to train at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Several fighters from the gym have recently tested positive for the virus, prompting the cancelation of scheduled bouts. Just this past weekend, ATT fighters Thiago Moises and Marcos Rogerio de Lima were ruled out of respective bouts at UFC Vegas 8 after positive tests. In the video, Vanderford said five of his teammates have been affected.
Asked about the recent positives, ATT owner Dan Lambert attributed the surge to the size of the gym and possible asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
“[Florida was] up to 15,000 cases a day, and now we’re under two, last I checked,” he said. “It’s just a bad run of luck. Everybody’s in close proximity to each other, so if somebody happens to catch it, you can do everything you can to be cautious and put standards in place to get people tested and do temperature checks when they come in and be diligent when people feel symptoms and get them out of the gym and keep them out of the gym until they test negatives. But if somebody is asymptomatic and passes it on to somebody else, the people in their group are prone to get it. You can’t socially distance when you’re getting ready for a fight. It’s going to happen.”
Lambert said he’s had outside labs test the entire gym for COVID-19 using a variety of methods and tried to buy a machine that tests for the virus. The gym has shut down the gym to non-fighters and drastically upped its cleaning regimen. But even then, he said, there have continued to be positives and some confusing results. A recent group test revealed three false positives upon retest. He added that two people recently ruled out to attend UFC events, fighter Pedro Munhoz and coach Mike Brown, tested negative in subsequent retests.
Lambert rejected the idea of shutting down the gym, saying individuals should be allowed to choose whether they want to go to work. He cited low morbidity rates in healthy populations who contracted the virus and indicated its severity was overblown.
“People have to live their lives – they’ve got to go out and earn a living,” he said. “I can’t tell people at our gym, you can’t go to work because somebody else at the gym that you may or may not have worked with got sick. It just doesn’t work like that. Back when this thing first came out and nobody knew how serious it was, or what the long-term effects were of people who got sick or how high the mortality rate may or may not be with the disease, I totally understand shutting down and doing what you have to do, because nobody knows where it’s going. But with the knowledge that we have and the chances of having serious health effects by being exposed to this that are otherwise healthy are just so, so minimal. I don’t have second thoughts. We’re going to run our gym the best we can. We’re going to do our best to keep the gym as safe and protected as we can, and unless the science proves otherwise, and in my opinion, it hasn’t, we’re going to be open for business.”
Check out the full VanZant video below.