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.
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9th April 2020 - UFC President advises of plans to use island to host international MMA fights
17th March 2020 - Coronavirus fears delays opening of Etihad Arena
26th February 2020 - Perth’s hosting of UFC event a major coup for Western Australia tourism
17th February 2020 - Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena to open in April
5th February 2020 - Ferrari World Abu Dhabi to launch new experiences and family zone
28th January 2020 - Developer Miral considers further Yas Island attractions
10th January 2020 - Etihad Airways takes on naming rights for new Abu Dhabi entertainment venue
7th January 2020 - World’s tallest indoor climbing wall opens in Abu Dhabi
31st December 2019 - Abu Dhabi National Museum edges towards 2021 opening
18th October 2019 - Work advances on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Bay entertainment and lifestyle precinct
30th July 2019 - Abu Dhabi announces massive funding for events and entertainment
30th April 2019 - UFC agrees long-term deal for fight events to return to Abu Dhabi
30th April 2019 - Yas Island attractions secure multiple wins at World Travel Awards
11th January 2019 - UFC to open US$13 million Performance Institute in Shanghai
26th October 2018 - Miral partners with Microsoft to transform Yas Island visitor experience
26th June 2018 - Abu Dhabi developers look for Yas Island to become top global leisure destination
2nd May 2018 - World Wrestling Entertainment stages first event in Saudi Arabia
11th July 2016 - Consortium buys UFC for US$4 billion
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