Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has been vocal in his commitment to holding UFC events throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, having already staged shows in May and June in Jacksonville, Florida. Now White has announced a new location in Abu Dhabi, calling the event “Fight Island”, to stage fights between international athletes who are unable to come into the U.S. due to travel restrictions.
But what exactly is “Fight Island”? Below we break down everything we know so far…
What is it, where is it and why?
The idea for “Fight Island” was actually conceived near the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, when the UFC were scrambling around to find an alternative venue to host UFC 249, originally scheduled for April 18 at Brooklyn’s Barclay Centre, with Tony Feguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s lightweight bout headlining.
Khabib would end up stranded in Russia due to a travel ban that saw his country close its borders and Justin Gaethje would step in on short notice, although UFC 249 was still without a location. The event was later rescheduled for May 9 in Jacksonville but whilst trying to keep UFC 249 together, White announced to ESPN that he had secured a private island to help stage fights during the pandemic.
“We really are putting an Octagon on the beach,” White told ESPN. “There's going to be training facilities there for people. There are hotels. And the whole island is going to be built, all the infrastructure is going to be built for the UFC to come do fights there.”
Taking place on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, it will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments but all “Fight Island” events will take place without spectators. Oh, and the Octagon? You can find that on the beach!
Who will be competing?
Four events have been scheduled to take place on Fight Island in July, with UFC 251 kicking things off on July 11, before three more events take place on the following weekend for the rest of the month.
“It’s f**king insane to even be trying to do this, but I promise you we will do it and we will pull it off," White said on the "Talk the Talk" podcast with Eddie Hearn in June. "I believe doing this is going to help grow the sport immensely and financially. In many different ways, it is going to help build the sport. I know we can do it."
If the stacked UFC 251 card is anything to go by, we could be in for a treat with the rest of the “Fight Island” events, with Kamarus Usman and Gilberto Burns headlining, Alexander Volkanovski’s rematch with Max Holloway is the co-main event while Petr Yan dukes it out with Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight title as the third title fight on the card.
Also appearing is Rose Namajunas’ rematch with Jessica Andrade in a rematch of their UFC 237 bout, while Paige VanZant will open the pay-per-view card against Amanda Ribas.
When is it?
July 11: UFC 251
July 15: TBD
July 18: TBD
July 25: TBD