Written by Chris Kubala
UFC was the first sport to return to action in North America last month, rolling out three cards in a one-week span in mid-May. The numbers were through the roof as fans starved for live sports action finally had something to tune into and watch. Those cards took place in empty arenas in Jacksonville, Florida, and UFC 249 drew north of 700,000 buys on pay-per-view when all was said and done. After a little break and a change of venue, the promotion moved back to its home of Las Vegas for UFC on ESPN 9, along with Saturday’s PPV, UFC 250, with Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer headlining that card.
There has been plenty of talk about Fight Island, as Dana White called it, hosting several cards for the promotion this summer. On Tuesday, we got clarification about the island and when we’ll start seeing some action from there from none other than White himself.
On ESPN’s First Take Tuesday, White gave information about Fight Island and when we can expect to see fights take place from there. White stated that Fight Island is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates. The first card from Fight Island will take place on July 11, which will be UFC 251. The main event of that card will be a featherweight title matchup between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski. In addition, there will be a big welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. Burns will be fighting with a quick turnaround as he trounced Tyron Woodley at UFC Fight Night on May 30. Usman hasn’t fought since defeating Colby Covington in his first title defense at UFC 245.
Along with that, the UFC is doing a solid job of still doing their best of maintaining social distancing and preventing any potential outbreaks of the coronavirus. The area of Yas Island that is going to comprise Fight Island will hold an arena, a hotel along with training facilities and restaurants. There also will be a buffer zone of sorts, with a 10 square mile radius being limited to fighters, trainers, coaches, UFC staff and other personnel. That will limit the number of individuals going in and out of that area, preventing any major flareup of the coronavirus. A training octagon will be set up on the beach so fighters can get their training in for their fights.
Additional cards that will take place on Fight Island, which will be branded as UFC Fight Nights, on July 15, July 18 and July 25. That’s part of the five-year deal that UFC signed to have events in Abu Dhabi last year. On paper, it’s a sound move for the promotion. It helps cut down on the red tape that is involved in bringing fighters that are currently outside the United States back into the country. That was one of the issues that hampered a potential fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. Having Fight Island available for cards this summer will alleviate that issue and potentially open up more of the big names to take their skills to the Octagon.
The UFC still has three cards scheduled for the month of June with action slated for June 13, June 20 and June 27. Each of those fights will take place from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. It’s clear that White is intent on driving the promotion back up to full speed. Fight Island is the next big step for the promotion as they look to fill the void that other sports have created with the COVID-19 pandemic putting everything on hold. It’s a wise move to make that happen before NBA games and the like hit the airwaves. We’ll see how things pan out going forward for White and company on the island.