UFC president Dana White has promised “an experience that none of us will ever forget” after it was announced Yas Island in Abu Dhabi will host four of the organisation’s events next month.
White has been teasing staging some shows at a mystery ‘Fight Island’ for the last couple of months, even though the UFC has been able to hold five cards behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic.
All of them have taken place in the United States and a further three are scheduled to be held in Las Vegas this month, but the company is now preparing to head to the United Arab Emirates resort, which will produce UFC 251 on July 11 followed by three Fight Nights on July 15, 18 and 25.
It has been reported that UFC 251 will feature three title bouts, headlined by Kamaru Usman defending his welterweight crown against Gilbert Burns. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski’s rematch against Max Holloway and Petr Yan versus Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt are said to be the other title fights.
Abu Dhabi has been the venue for three UFC events in the past while the island itself was last used for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successful lightweight title defence against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 last September.
“We came up with the idea of having fights on ‘Fight Island’ because we needed a destination to hold international events during the global pandemic,” White said.
“Abu Dhabi has been an amazing location to hold fights over the past 10 years and it is the perfect place for these events.
“The infrastructure we are building will be such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the fighters that’s never been done before – from the arena, the private training facility, and the octagon on the island.
“It’s going to be an experience that none of us will ever forget. I can’t wait to deliver amazing fights from Yas island.”
In line with public health guidelines, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi intends to secure a safety zone within the nearly 10-square mile island, including an arena, hotel, training facilities and dining areas.
The announcement comes after a turbulent past couple of weeks for the UFC, with Conor McGregor announcing his retirement from fighting last Sunday, declaring: “I’m a bit bored of the game. There’s just no buzz for me.”
McGregor’s decision was hot on the heels of light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and popular welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal becoming embroiled in public disputes with White, apparently over pay.
White had some sympathy for the trio at a time of global uncertainty as he said after the conclusion of UFC 250 over the weekend: “If people don’t want to fight, you don’t have to fight.
“This isn’t the NBA or the NFL where you better be at practice, you better show up and do this, you don’t have to do anything here and if these guys want to sit out and retire right now or if anybody feels uncomfortable in any way, shape or form with what’s going on you don’t have to fight. It is all good.
“If that’s what Conor’s feeling right now, Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, I feel you. Nothing is crazy and nuts right now because everything is crazy and nuts right now. On a certain level I totally understand and get it.”