Martial arts union chairman Dana White sees his long-cherished wish come true on Saturday: an international fighting evening is being organized on an island in Abu Dhabi for the first time in corona time. This is all you need to know about the much talked about 'Fight Island' in the Middle East.
It is at the beginning of the corona crisis when controversial UFC boss White first brings up his plan to host battles on an island. Virtually all sporting events were halted at that time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the American businessman refuses to accept it.
Partly due to the storm of criticism, the plan does not get off the ground - several events were completed in the US - but White is still getting his way. Fighting evenings (without fans) are organized on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on 11, 15, 18 and 25 July, where a Formula 1 race is also held annually.
In this way, international Mixed Martial Arts fighters, who are currently not welcome in the US due to travel restrictions, can fly to the United Arab Emirates to take action. The fighters and their coaches end up in a so-called 'bubble' on Yas Island, just like all UFC employees.
They will reside in a safety zone of more than 16 square kilometers, isolated from the outside world. It contains an arena, a hotel, training facilities and dining facilities. Fighters who have already taken action are expected to leave the bubble immediately afterward.
Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal headlined UFC 251. (Picture: Getty Images)
Fighters and coaches are tested several times
All participants arriving in the United Arab Emirates are tested for the COVID-19 virus and must remain at their hotel until the result is known. The fighters and their coaches, who are also examined before departure, must again undergo a corona test 48 hours after arrival and just before their match.
All personnel working in the safety zone had to quarantine in a hotel for fourteen days from 19 June. In the meantime, 740 employees built the octagon and other facilities.
All battles take place in the Flash Forum, which normally can accommodate thousands of people but which now remains closed to the public. Outside on the beach, near the water, an octagon has been built that can be used for training.
The organization has installed so-called fog tunnels in the arena, which disinfect visitors to the arena. Wearing face masks is mandatory everywhere and the octagon is thoroughly cleaned between battles.
An octagon has been built on the beach for fighters to train. (Photo: Getty Images)
Gilbert Burns tests positive before departure
The strict corona measures were not without reason, because they allowed Gilbert Burns to cross UFC 251. The 33-year-old Brazilian tested positive for the corona virus before leaving Las Vegas, so that he could no longer compete against Kamaru Usman for the world title in welterweight.
The fight between Burns and Usman was the headliner of the first event on Yas Island, putting pressure on the evening. However, the UFC acted swiftly and stricted Jorge Masvidal to take Burns' place, leaving three title fights on the schedule.
Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway compete at UFC 251 for the featherweight title and in the bantamweight, Petr Yan and José Aldo battle for the championship belt. The three title fights are all scheduled on the night from Saturday to Sunday (Dutch time).
It is not the first time that the UFC has entered tourist Yas Island. The last time was in September 2019, when Khabib Nurmagomedov successfully defended his title in the lightweight by beating Dustin Poirier.