UFC president Dana White is committed to holding UFC events during the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the sporting world has been shut down, the UFC has aggressively sought to find ways to schedule fights.
The MMA promotion has already staged fights in May and June in Jacksonville, Fla., and Las Vegas. And now, the UFC is heading to Abu Dhabi for a series of events with international athletes who can't come into the U.S. due to travel restrictions.
That location has been affectionately called "Fight Island," and events will begin there July 11, with a major PPV fight between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.
Here's everything you need to know about the location that the UFC plans to host events.
What is UFC Fight Island?
The idea of “Fight Island” originated when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sporting world and left the UFC scrambling for a new location to host UFC 249, which was originally scheduled for April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The highly anticipated event was slated to be headlined by a lightweight title showdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson that had been scheduled and canceled for various reasons on four previous occasions — and White insisted this time the fight was going to take place no matter what.
However, with the pandemic spreading, Nurmagomedov would end up stranded in Russia due to a travel ban that saw his country close its borders. Justin Gaethje would step in on short notice, but UFC 249 was still without a location.
White attempted to relocate the event to California but was met with adversity, and he finally postponed UFC 249 after his hand was forced by ESPN and Disney to “stand down.” The event was later rescheduled for May 9 in Jacksonville.
Amidst the scramble to try to keep UFC 249 together, White announced to ESPN that he had secured a private island to stage fights during the pandemic.
The location has been called “Fight Island,” and the UFC moved forward with applying for a patent for it and is selling "Fight Island" merchandise on the official UFC website.
The plan for “Fight Island” is to be a location that will host international fights. With travel restrictions preventing fighters from other countries to enter the United States, White concocted the idea to hold UFC events at the undisclosed location to get around those travel issues.
Yas Island has all of the necessary infrastructures to hold a major event, and White delivered on his promise to have an Octagon on the beach.
In a press release, the UFC said there will be a safety zone within the nearly 10-square mile Yas Island that will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments. The safety zone will only be open to UFC athletes and their coaches; UFC staff and other event personnel; and Yas Island employees who are necessary to ensure the operation of the facilities.
“Fight Island” events will take place without fans in attendance.
Where is UFC Fight Island?
- UFC Fight Island location: Abu Dhabi's Yas Island
On June 9, White revealed the location of Fight Island: Abu Dhabi's Yas Island.
Last September, UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier was held on Yas Island as part of a five-year partnership between the UFC and Abu Dhabi. Bringing Fight Island to Abu Dhabi is an extension of that agreement.
Yas Island has also hosted Formula One's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
When will UFC Fight Island open?
- Fight Island start date: Saturday, July 11
Fight Island will have its first event on with UFC 251 on July 11. It will then have success fight nights on July 15, July 18 and July 25.
“It’s f—ing 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 and Tony Bellew in early 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."
What fights will be at UFC Fight Island?
- July 11: UFC 251: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
- July 15: Calvin Kattar vs. Dan Ige
- July 18: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benavidez
- July 25: Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till
Fight Island will open with a pay-per-view event, with UFC 251 on Saturday, July 11, with a main card featuring UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal.
Masvidal was a last-minute replacement for Gilbert Burns, who tested positive for COVID-19 a week before the fight.
UFC 251 features two other championship fights: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight championship and Petr Yan vs. José Aldo for the vacant UFC bantamweight championship.