If you know Dana White, then you knew that Fight Island was definitely not a rouse, it was going to happen.
Abu Dhabi Dept. of Culture and Tourism (DCT) announced today that the much-anticipated UFC FIGHT ISLANDÔ events will be held on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
It is one of the emirate’s most popular leisure, shopping and entertainment destinations.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 9, 2020
UFC will produce four events on Yas Island, including one Pay Per View, UFC® 251, and three Fight Nights. The action-packed schedule begins with UFC 251 on Saturday, July 11, and will be followed with successive Fight Nights on Wednesday, July 15; Saturday, July 18; and Saturday, July 25.
Details for each event, including fight cards, will be announced in coming weeks.
To accommodate existing public health guidelines, DCT Abu Dhabi will create a safety zone within the nearly ten square mile (25 km2) Yas Island that will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments.
This 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.
Dana White says starting with UFC 251 on July 11, UFC events will take place on Fight Island through at least the rest of July.
Fight Island is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE pic.twitter.com/dcAPhUxkG2
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 9, 2020
“Our partnership with the UFC, now in its second year, has proved to be one of our most successful ventures in recent years,” HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said. “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.”
“We have worked closely with all government entities in Abu Dhabi to ensure that the staging of this historic event complies with the highest standards of safety for the athletes, coaches, and all UFC personnel as well as the safety of our community. This year, Abu Dhabi has successfully proven its ability to handle all challenges and promote the well-being of its visitors and residents; and today, we are here to showcase the best that our capital has to offer, as we look forward to opening our doors once again to the world.”
UFC President Dana White, who first leaked the concept of Fight Island to the media weeks ago, made something out of a movie happen during these tumultuous times.
“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,” said White. “Abu Dhabi has been an amazing location to hold fights over the past ten 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.”
Fight Island is official 🏝
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) June 9, 2020
Will tourism aid the venture or will COVID-19 make it an event for television sans audience? Only time will tell but Abu Dhabi is looking at this as an instant game changer for global sports enthusiasts.
Smart Moves, Bad Timing
In 2019, UFC and DCT Abu Dhabi entered into a groundbreaking five-year partnership to bring UFC events to the emirate. UFC® 242: KHABIB VS. POIRIER, the first event held under the new agreement, attracted more than 14,000 fans to Yas Island last September.
The agreement to bring UFC FIGHT ISLAND to Abu Dhabi is an expansion of the original five-year partnership between UFC and DCT Abu Dhabi.
Prior to 2019, UFC held events in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and 2014, including its first-ever outdoor event, UFC® 112: INVINCIBLE, in April 2010, and UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: NOGUEIRA vs. NELSON in April 2014.
Jorge Masvidal took to Twitter to express frustrations regarding negotiations for his next fight, with a reminder about why he was 2019's Fighter of the Year.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 5, 2020
Since then, Conor McGregor became the biggest MMA star ever, Jon Jones bounced back yet again and new stars have entered the picture.
However, the UFC now stands at a cultural crossroads.
McGregor blew the ceiling off the UFC’s pay model and he reminded fighters that there are no limits. Under the UFC’s current pay structure, lower level fighters receive an amount to “show” for a fight and a “win bonus” if they get the victory.
Once you achieve the rank of champion, the model is more advantageous when you add in pay-per-view points. However, now that fighters like Jon Jones are realizing their value, they are asking for it.
Recently, Jones and White got into it when White suggested that Jones was asking for too much to move up to heavyweight. The move was specifically for a super fight against Francis Ngannou. According to White, Jones was asking for Deontay Wilder boxing purse numbers.
Jones denied that but threatened to walk from the promotion over social media.
Conor McGregor retired suddenly over the weekend as well. The news came out of nowhere but many think it was the inability to keep McGregor fighting for the money he wanted.
Last, rising star, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal challenged the UFC to step his bread up. They balked and the former Miami street fighter is the most recent threatening to leave.
Jorge Masvidal watching Jon Jones' negotiating tactics: pic.twitter.com/WSLRHh9L7U
— MMA On Point (@OnPointMMA) June 6, 2020
As the world looks for social justice, will the UFC be amenable to compensate the stars they manufacture and need?
If history is the best teacher then no, nothing will change. The fighters, through either unionizing or by not fighting, are the only ones that can change their circumstances.