By Gavin Gibbon
UFC 251 is set to kick off in UAE capital on Saturday and run through to July 26
Max Holloway is eyeing revenge over Alexander Volkanovski in Saturday’s featherweight championship bout. but he is already looking forward to creating history as one of the first to take part in the UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
An 11km stretch of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island has been locked off to the public as part of a ‘safe zone’ for the showcase, which is currently home to more than 2,500 people for four events, including the Pay Per View UFC 251 and three ESPN Fight Nights, from July 11 to 26.
Holloway, whose title fight is scheduled for the opening night, said: “You guys hear me saying ‘the Ninth Island’, the ‘10th Island’; this the 11th Island. This is huge for sure. This is a big card, it’s supposed to be international fight week. Especially with all this pandemic coming on, it’s just insane that I get to be a part of this.
“I’m happy. This is history. Nobody is going to take this away from me. I’m going to etch my name in the history books and, here we go at the weekend.”
All bouts will take place at Flash Forum, a multi-purpose indoor venue which has been adapted to suit UFC’s needs, whilst adhering to Covid-19 precautionary measures. Innovative ‘mist tunnels’ - 1.5m passageways on entry to the venue - have been added to sanitise everyone entering, with the mist killing 99 percent of surface bacteria.
Sanitisation stations are also included in every room, in every venue and communal areas have been removed. There will also be no crowd and masks will be compulsory at all times.
Holloway admitted he’s disappointed at not being able to explore the UAE capital.
He said: “I’m kind of bummed that my team can’t go venturing around like they usually do and really get into it and really learn the culture. I’m sad about that. Maybe here in the future when this pandemic thing slows down, we can come back and get to know the land and get to know the culture better and really take this 11 island on.”
The famous Octagon also has its own safety measures. Housed in a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned indoor arena within the zone, the Octagon will be sanitised between all fights and be subjected to deep cleaning each evening.
Asked about the size of the Octagon, which at 30-feet is larger than the 25-feet one installed at Las Vegas’ Apex Arena, Holloway said: “I don’t really care, we could fight in a 16-feet one, a fight’s a fight, I just can’t wait. Put me anywhere, I want to fight.”
Holloway, who is still number one in the UFC featherweight rankings, lost out in the first bout in Las Vegas as Australian Volkanovski won out in a unanimous decision.
The Hawaiian native, who has had 26 professional MMA fights and has won five belts, said: “It’s just another fight for me. I can’t wait to go out there and do my thing. It’s going to be something special. You won’t want to miss it.”
The eagerly anticipated rematch is one of three title fights set to take place on Saturday. In the main event, reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will defend his title against late replacement Jorge Masvidal, while Petr Yan and Jose Aldo collide for the vacant 135-pound strap.