In 2020, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, finally earned its label as one of the fight capitols of the world after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to hold nearly half of its events outside the United States. A big part of why UFC went to such lengths to launch “Fight Island” was travel restrictions: with various parts of the world locking down as wave after wave of COVID-19 hit, the promotion needed a place where it could hold fights for its international athletes.
Now, with the United States implementing a vaccination requirement on anyone flying into America, UFC President, Dana White, says a return to more events in Abu Dhabi may be ahead.
“I’ve been telling you guys through this whole thing,” White said during the most recent “Contender Series” post-fight press conference (via MMA Fighting). “You’re like, ‘Hey, what about this, what about that?’ I said I have no idea how all this nuttiness is going to play out, but here we go. We’re gonna — I don’t know. I think ‘Fight Island’ is going to be hopping again.
“Yeah, we’re looking to do more events [there],” White continued. “I’m going to Abu Dhabi next Wednesday, so I have a lot of meetings out there. I’ve been dying to walk you guys through what’s been going on in Abu Dhabi anyways, so this trip I’ll get everything done, buttoned up and finished and I can come back and walk you guys through it.”
UFC 267 goes down from Abu Dhabi on Oct. 30, 2021, a rare afternoon pay-per-view (PPV) for American audiences that has led to UFC gifting the event to anyone with an ESPN+ subscription (read details here). It’s also a nice little hype appetizer for November 6th’s massive UFC 268 card in New York City one week later.
We can’t imagine UFC will go back to holding nearly half of its cards on the other side of the world, but Abu Dhabi is definitely a secure home base for the promotion to rely on and/or fall back on when it comes to international events. Just knowing it has the facilities and a friendly government at the ready certainly doesn’t hurt when considering the possibility of events in France, Africa, United Kingdom or China.