By Neil Halligan
In order to host the event, Abu Dhabi tourism will create a 25 km2 safety zone on Yas Island
UFC will host four events on Yas Island next month, including a pay-per-view night on Saturday July 11.
Billed as 'UFC Fight Island', the first of the events will be UFC 251, which will feature title fights involving some of the sport’s biggest stars.
While not officially confirmed yet, former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo – famously knocked out in 13 seconds by Conor McGregor – is expected to challenge Petr Yan for the bantamweight title left vacant by Henry Cejudo in UFC 251.
Also expected to be among the headline fights are Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway in the featherweight division and champion Kamaru Usman defending the welterweight title against Gilbert Burns.
This is the main card for UFC 251, per Dana White on First take:
Usman vs. Burns
Volkanovski vs. Holloway
Yan vs. Aldo
Namajunas vs. Andrade 2
VanZant vs. Ribas— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 9, 2020
In addition to UFC 251, the new purpose-built venue will host ‘fight night’ events on Wednesday, July 15, Saturday, July 18 and Saturday, July 25. Full details of the various fight cards will be announced in the coming weeks.
In order to host the event, Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) will create a 25 km sq safety zone on Yas Island that will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments.
Organisers say 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.
UFC President Dana White said the infrastructure in place on Yas Island made it an ideal destination to host the events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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,” White said.
“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.”
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, added “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.”
In 2019, UFC and DCT Abu Dhabi entered into a five-year partnership to bring UFC events to the emirate, the first of which saw Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat Dustin Poirier in September last year.
In the UAE and throughout the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, UFC Fight Island events will be broadcast on UFC Arabia, UFC’s first Arabic-language subscription service in the region.