Dubai: Beach volleyball and beach football are well-established sports that are played at attractive seaside locations around the world and now it would appear that it’s the turn of the UFC to join the bandwagon.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the popular MMA event’s calendar in March, UFC boss Dana White as talked of hosting future events at a secluded ‘Fight Island’, the location of which he stoically guarded.
However, on Saturday night at UFC 250 in Las Vegas, Brazilian fighter Hubert Burns accidentally made reference to the location in his post-fight press conference.
Burns, who is the younger brother of No. 1 ranked welterweight fighter Gilbert Burns, said: “I want to fight on the Fight Island. I think we already know the location now, they already said it’s in Abu Dhabi. That is the plan. The plan is to go there and fight again soon.”
When contacted by Gulf News, sources confirmed that “something is brewing” in Abu Dhabi regarding the staging of UFC fight cards, but stopped short of revealing anything more.
Earlier Brazilian outlet, Combate, had teased about ‘Fight Island’ being in the UAE.
In an interview with ESPN on Thursday, White confirmed that Darren Till vs Whittaker was being planned, but did not reveal a specific date. Reports suggest that July 25, could be date when the ‘Fight Island’ makes its debut.
Given the enormity of the interest in the ‘Fight Island’ concept and the wild speculation circulating in the media and combat sports world, White voiced his concerns in an interview with TMZ Sports.
“The fantasy of Fight Island, I’m very worried it will eclipse the reality of Fight Island,” White said.
“The fighters are not going to walk out lined up with tiki torches (a pole-mounted fire torch) on the side. I will not be sitting in a big throne overseeing the Octagon and watching the fight.”
But White did say that there will be a little arena that is very cool on the beach, with a place for fighters to train and that the ‘Fight Island’ will debut on July 11 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He also explained that the venue has been prepared as a professional environment and, aside from the beachside Octagon, will have all the trappings of regular MMA events.
The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi and the UFC already have a successful working relationship with the UAE capital having hosted a Fight Night card in 2014, at the Du Arena and more recently UFC 247 featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier in September 2019 at Yas Arena.
Last month, speaking to Speaking to UFC Arabia, Dana White echoed his plans to bring “massive fights” to the city.
“We have a five-year deal with Abu Dhabi for fights in the Middle East. My relationship with Abu Dhabi couldn’t be better,” said White.
“Any opportunity that I can get to do an event in Abu Dhabi, I will be there.
“Abu Dhabi is a destination, it’s a fun place to go. This last fight we did there, we did a sort of a version of Looking for a Fight and there’s so many things to do out there and so many cool attractions in the city that make it a great destination for fights.
“Over the next five years together I think the sky is the limit with the cool things we can do in Abu Dhabi, leading up to fights and fight week.”