Ultimate Fighting Championship boss Dana White says he’s ready to press forward with his long-planned “Fight Island” idea, which will now supposedly take place in the United Arab Emirates next month under strict coronavirus prevention rules.
White has been talking about a private island for holding fights since April, when he first floated the idea while planning the UFC’s comeback from COVID-19. His original plan fell through, but he’s now held a few events at empty stadiums in Florida and Las Vegas, and is ready to make “Fight Island” happen soon — although the destination won’t be as tropical as some expected.
“It’s Yas Island in Abu Dhabi,” White said in a video posted on the UFC’s Twitter page Tuesday. “Everything will happen on the island. Nobody will leave the island.”
White says the UFC is building infrastructure on Yas Island at the moment, and that there will be enough hotels and private training quarters to keep everything in-house during the fights. There will also be an Octagon on the beach, he says.
White expects the UFC to hold four events on the island on July 11, 15, 18 and 25. Its signature pay-per-view event, UFC 251, will take place on July 11, followed by three “Fight Night” cards.
The UFC says it will have a “safety zone” of 10 square miles around the island, which has amusement parks, luxury hotels, leisure amenities and sporting venues. Everyone will fly into Abu Dhabi and get to the island by vehicle, White added.
“Our partnership with the UFC, now in its second year, has proved to be one of our most successful ventures in recent years,” Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi said in a statement to CBS Sports. “Thanks to their commitment and cooperation, we are proud to announce that Abu Dhabi will host the first-ever ‘Fight Island’ event, marking the long-awaited return of UFC fights to the global stage.”
The UFC has a five-year deal to bring events to Abu Dhabi, and has already held three events on Yas Island in the past.
The international setting is expected to make it easier for the UFC to bring in some of its athletes from outside North America, amid different lockdown rules for the coronavirus around the world.
“We’re literally just going to Yas Island right now to pull off these fights, because the hardest thing to do right now is to get people into the country from other parts of the world,” White said. He added that he needs to get his international fighters in because he doesn’t want to “burn out” all of his American fighters.
“The whole COVID-19 thing is covered,” White told ESPN’s First Take.
The UFC is inching its way back along with several other popular sports, including the NBA and NHL, which are mulling return-to-play plans that would bring players together in one or a few closed locations.
UFC 251 will feature three championship bouts. Kamara Usman will try to defend his welterweight title against Gilbert Burns, while Alex Volkanovsky and Max Holloway will hold a featherweight title rematch and Peter Yan will take on Jose Aldo for the bantamweight championship, which is currently vacant.
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