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UFC’s ‘fight island’ concept to be staged in Abu Dhabi

UFC’s ‘fight island’ concept to be staged in Abu Dhabi
June 15, 2020

UFC has announced that its much-anticipated Fight Island concept will be staged on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island.

Set to be the first major international event with athletes flying to a destination since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, UFC will stage four events in Abu Dhabi, starting with UFC 251 on pay-per-view on 11th July and with three further fight cards on 15th, 18th and 25th July.

While UFC President Dana White did not purchase an island to host his championships as he had been hinting, the use of the United Arab Emirates sport and attractions hub - also home to the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix - is part of a growing relationship between the US-based sport and the Government of Abu Dhabi.

For Abu Dhabi, staging the events is seen as making an emphatic statement that it is open for sport and tourism.

With there having been no announcement on the opening of the new Etihad Arena on the island, the venue for the UFC events as merely been announced as a "secure location" within a 25 kilometre² safe zone on Yas Island with all facilities open only to the UFC and essential local staff.

Marketing materials show the venue as an octagon on the beach, although the events are understood not to be taking place in such a location.

Commenting on the arrangements to host the fight series, Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Executive Director, Tourism and Marketing for Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), told local media outlet the Khaleej Times on Sunday night that the organisers commenced negotiations in March.

Al Shaiba advised "the UFC approached us to host this fight due to the high level of safety in Abu Dhabi and the high capabilities we demonstrated in hosting international events."

He noted that preparations involved "a careful assessment involving government entities and the UFC followed to ensure all safety and security standards were met, Al Shaiba commented "it was tough in terms of adhering to restrictions and finding out what protocols to put in place to ensure the safety of travellers that would come from different destinations, and also the UAE staff, police, media, and everyone else into that safe zone.

"We have worked closely with all relevant partners, including airways, regulatory authorities to ensure a safe transport of fighters into the UAE without interruptions. The safe zone will help us guarantee the highest level of safety possible for everyone involved. All staff and teams on the ground will be tested before the event."

Al Shaiba said the Fight Island demonstrates Abu Dhabi's capabilities to host world-class events, adding "our aim is to position Abu Dhabi as a leader in supporting the rebirth of the sport and tourism sectors. We are taking all measures. We are setting plans, protocols, guidelines and everything. We have prepared all these things. So it's a matter of two weeks and we can kick it off."

He went on to stated that Fight Island signals Abu Dhabi's readiness for a 'new chapter' of tourism, telling the Khaleej Times "we will expand and enhance our offering in various areas as we get ready to welcome visitors ... once again."

DCT has also committed to share its events hosting strategy with other countries to help them host similar events.

About the author

Karen Sweaney

Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

Artist, geoscientist and specialist writer on the leisure industry, Karen Sweaney is Editor of Australasian Leisure Management. Based in Sydney, Australia, her specific areas of interest include the arts, entertainment, the environment, fitness, tourism and wellness.

She has degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and Geological Oceanography from UNSW.

Read more from this author

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