Dubai: Following its successful run at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island in July, the UFC spectacle returns to the UAE capital for the a series of five fight nights between September and October which will culminate in a colossal event - featuring UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagmedov and first-time challenger Justin Gaethje.
Speaking at the Dana White’s Contender Series 32 post-fight news conference on Tuesday, UFC supremo Dana White confirmed the promotion’s plans for its second foray in Abu Dhabi which kicks offs with UFC 253 on September 26 and will be followed by three UFC Fight Night events tentatively scheduled for October 3, 10, and 17 before it stages UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje on October 24.
“We’re going to ‘Fight Island,’” White said with Khabib promptly tweeting on Wednesday that he is headlining ‘the best card of the year’.
And that’s no exaggeration UFC 254 looks in a different league with massive fights in the planning including a co-main event between that Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje
Also like on the card is a middleweight scorcher between former champion Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier, Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Yair Rodriguez and Islam Makhachev, the long-time understudy to Khabib Nurmagomedov who takes on the former great Rafael dos Anjos.
That’s on October 24 but the five-event series kicks-off with an equally explosive card in UFC 253: Adesanya vs Costa on September 26.
The mouth-watering match-up between undefeated UFC middleweight Isreal Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) and undefeated challenger Paulo Costa (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) looks an absolute corker.
A video posted by his camp showed Costa to be in supreme shape while coach Eric Albarracin performed his best Bruce Buffer impersonation to set the tone for a bruising practice session.
With Brazilian muay Thai champion Vanderlei Goncalves acting as an Adesanya clone with his coloured hair and trademark pre-fight hand movements the video was both entertaining and evocative as it revealed that Costa could be the perfect match for the Kiwi champion. UFC 253 also features a title fight between Dominick Reyes (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Jan Blachowicz
‘‘It’s interesting,’’ Reyes recently told MMA Junkie. “He’s getting older and getting better. How often does that happen? He is getting better.
“His striking is very good, his counters are very good, he’s really sharp,” Reyes said. “Very sharp guy and he’s powerful. He throws with power and throws with a lot of intent.”
However, Reyes believes he’s a better fighter all around, and said: “My youth my hunger, my movement, my speed, my athleticism, my approach to the game. I think he’s a great fighter, I just think I’m better, you know. It’s one of those things where he’s good, I just know I’m better.”
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa TITLE FIGHT
Claudia Gadelha vs. Xiaonan Yan
Kai Kara France vs. Brandon Royal
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
Dominick Reyes vs. Jan Blachowicz TITLE FIGHT
Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Matthews
Jordan Espinosa vs. David Dvorak
Brad Riddell vs. Alex da Silva Coelho
Shane Young vs. Nate Landwehr