Gilbert Burns of Brazil (blue gloves) punches Tyron Woodley (red gloves) in their welterweight fight during UFC Fight Night.
Gilbert Burns of Brazil (blue gloves) is devastated at not being able to make it to the UAE for the 'Fight Island' card after testing positive for coronavirus on the eve of boarding the flight. Image Credit: USA Today

Dubai: The UFC’s scheduled ‘Fight Island’ opener at Abu Dhabi on July 11 suffered a massive blow with the headline fight being pulled off the card after Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19.

Burns (MMA 18 wins, 3 losses) was billed to face his teammate and welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (16-1) in UFC 251 at Yas Island, the first of four actioned packed MMA events planned for July.

Brazilian fighter Burns reportedly travelled from Florida, where he has been training for the fight, to Las Vegas where he underwent mandatory tests prior to catching a chartered flight to Abu Dhabi. However, his results came back positive, as did tests conducted on his brother and cornerman, Herbert Burns, and coach Greg Jones.

The UFC has set up a special hub at Las Vegas to test all fighters before they catch flights to the UAE.

In light of the positive COVID-19 test, Usman also did not board the plane to Abu Dhabi.

Burns quickly took to social media to share his thoughts, and said: ‘Devastating news, not feeling well but I’m going to win this battle! Stay safe out there! Much love.’e

Burns is not the only UFC fighter to fail the COVID-19 test as his Sanford MMA teammate, Aung La N Sang, Anderson dos Santos and women fighters Marina Rodriguez and Carla Esparza have also been removed from the July 15 UFC event in Abu Dhabi after related positive COVID-19 tests.

Neither of the strawweights tested positive but one of Rodriguez’s cornermen flunked the coronavirus screening.

Rodriguez;s (12-0-2) COVID-19 test come back negative, but the UFC pulled her out of the card for precautionary measures.

However, despite the cancellation of the Burns vs Usman main event, UFC 251 boasts two exciting title fights. The first, a featherweight match-up between champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway and a battle for the vacant bantamweight belt between Jose Aldo, who will be making his second appearance at 135 pounds against Russian stormer Petr Yan.

Volkanovski will defend his featherweight title for the first time against Holloway, who he defeated to claim the belt last year.

UFC 251

Saturday, July 11

MAIN CARD (UAE 6 am Sunday)

MAIN EVENT: Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns (Cancelled)

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway

Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo

Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas

Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas

UFC 251 PRELIMS (ET, UAE 2 am Sunday)

Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov

Makwan Amirkhani vs. Danny Henry

Leonardo Santos vs. Roman Bogatov

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov

Raulian Paiva vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov

Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo

Martin Day vs. Davey Grant