UFC Fight Island is set to play host to July 11’s blockbuster UFC 251 pay-per-view but even now, it remains something of a mystery to the fans.
Sporting events, musical concerts, the production of films, and television shows. Each of these staples within the entertainment and cultural industries were forced to accept their inability to continue moving forward and all across the board, we watched as the world was brought to a standstill.
And yet, Dana White, for all of his flaws, did manage to find a way to continue delivering his product to the same level of frequency as we’re generally used to seeing in a regular month.
A lot of people were understandably angry at the UFC for even trying in the first place – calling the entire decision an unnecessary risk in a time where risks, in general, were to be avoided.
Still, though, with us now several shows deep into this new, streamlined version of mixed martial arts, kudos must be given to White and the UFC brass for pulling off what others didn’t even attempt.
Despite the general feeling of uneasiness and the divide that engulfed the MMA community during the buildup to the first of these events, the actual quality of the product itself has been outstanding thus far.
If all continues to go as smoothly for Dana and co. as it has so far during this uniquely difficult time, history will likely smile upon his stubborn effort to keep his sport alive and productive where others have failed to do so.
The next step in the UFC’s plan to regain some sense of normalcy in this strange and trying time will come when UFC 251 takes place at the newly-constructed UFC Fight Island on July 11.
As a fight fan, it certainly is hard not to at least grin at this unapologetically silly idea – a move that almost instantly springs to mind memories of 1970’s martial arts classic Enter The Dragon.
But there will be no alligator-filled moat or nunchuck-wielding henchmen to be found once the action gets underway on the night itself – and with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what exactly the UFC have planned.
Where exactly is the island itself?
The location of UFC Fight Island was long kept under wraps by the UFC brass as they looked to both drum up fan interest and, of course, avoid any potential trouble and unwanted attention from those who would seek to interfere with their plans.
Keeping a business-as-usual attitude was always going to be a controversial stance and as we saw with the original UFC 249 back in April – too many eyes on their dealings led to the intervention of both ESPN and Disney just days before the show was set to go ahead.
UFC Fight Island is located on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, an increasingly popular tourism project and the host of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Speaking in an official statement made by the promotion ahead of next week’s event, White explained the decision and his overall excitement with the project.
“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.
“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.”
So what exactly is the point of having a ‘fight island’?
Well, if you ask me, the ‘island’ part is just pure showmanship from the UFC president. The eyes of the sporting world have been fixated on MMA for a few months now as a result of its premier promotion’s refusal to back down in the face of the ongoing global pandemic.
White certainly knows how to play to the crowd and his decision to keep his cards close to his chest up until this point has attached a healthy dose of mystery to this enigmatic little slice of MMA history in the making.
As things stand, however, the island’s purpose will be to give fighters outside of the US a place to stay, train, eat, and go about their business in a similar vein to the role that the UFC APEX plays back in Las Vegas.
Although the UFC have been putting on shows, travel restrictions and the various banana skins being thrown up by the ongoing pandemic have made going to the United States a big ask for a lot of the promotion’s international stars.
Having Fight Island will open a lot of doors for the UFC in terms of granting them access to a greater pool of potential matchups down the line.
So what will change on the night itself?
Well, by the looks of things, not much.
Rumours were circulating in recent weeks that seemed to indicate that the octagon would be placed on a beach – something that would, of course, in reality, be completely detrimental to the fighters and their safety.
Yes, the octagon is technically on a beach, but as you will see in the video below, it will be enclosed in a purpose-built arena that will give the event the same feel and overall layout as the recent shows in both Florida and the APEX.
How long will Fight Island be in use? And how long will it be until we see UFC events with crowds?
As things stand, four UFC events have been scheduled for UFC Fight Island – UFC 251 and a trio of Fight Night cards to take place on July 15, 18, and 25.
Looking ahead, it truly is difficult to estimate when we can look forward to seeing 15,000 people inside an arena for a mixed martial arts event – especially when you consider the vast differences in each country’s ability to maintain control in the face of a potential outbreak.
With that being said, I wouldn’t personally get my hopes up about seeing fully-attended shows before 2020 is through.
Who’s fighting on UFC 251?
UFC 251 features a trio of championship matchups and will contain the following fights on the night’s main-card:
Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Gilbert Burns
Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway II
Petr Yan vs. José Aldo
Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade II
Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas
Check out the trailer for UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns below: