Brian Ortega's most-tenured coach won't be able to corner him for a huge fight next week.
Rener Gracie, the well-known Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and member of the world-renowned Gracie family, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was unable to make the trip with Ortega to Abu Dhabi, Gracie announced Friday night on Instagram. Ortega meets Chan Sung Jung in the featherweight main event of UFC Fight Night on Oct. 17.
"I was so bummed," Gracie said.
In the Instagram video, Gracie said he and his wife, former WWE star Eve Torres, tested positive for the coronavirus "about a month ago," then quarantined for two weeks before testing negative again. Gracie said he tested negative for a second time last week when the UFC sent kits home for fighters and corners in advance of the Abu Dhabi trip.
On Wednesday, the U.S.-based fighters and teams going to Abu Dhabi all traveled to Las Vegas, where they had to be tested again and quarantined until the results came back. In that test, Gracie said he was positive. The charter flight for Yas Island -- dubbed "Fight Island," as the UFC's international home during the pandemic -- left Friday and Gracie was not allowed to be on it.
Gracie said he pleaded his case with the UFC doctors, but they said Abu Dhabi has a "zero tolerance" policy for positive COVID-19 tests. Gracie has taught Ortega in Brazilian jiu-jitsu since Ortega was a teenager and has cornered him for all of his pro fights, until now.
"At first, Brian thought I was joking, because I tested negative already twice in the last two weeks," Gracie said. "And I wasn't. Of course, he's super bummed. But I assured him, I said 'Brian, luckily this skill set that I bring to the table that I coached you for over 15 years in is the most ingrained in you of all your skill sets in fighting. It's the one that you least need coaching on.' So, if anyone has to stay behind, it should be me."
Ortega vs. Jung could decide the next UFC featherweight title challenger, according to UFC president Dana White. It's also a heated rivalry that came to a head when Ortega slapped Jay Park, Jung's manager in South Korea and a Korean pop star, in the crowd at UFC 248 back in March.
"I'll be watching like the rest of the world," Gracie said. "We'll be there with you, brother -- until the end."