UFC fight island
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Fight Island is Official: UFC to Hold Four Events in Abu Dhabi



Doubters once called it an urban myth but the legendary Fight Island is finally a reality. UFC president Dana White revealed this week the location of Fight Island is set at Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi.


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The island will be the site of four UFC cards throughout the month of July, including UFC 251 on July 11, a mega card featuring three championship fights. The headlining bout will be welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defending his strap against Gilbert Burns. This will be Burns’ third closed-door event since the COVID-19 outbreak, having beat Demian Maia by TKO in March and running through former champion Tyron Woodley in May to secure a title shot.

In the co-main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski will run his fight back with Max Holloway in a matchup between two of the UFC’s most decorated strikers. The two had a hard-fought battle in December, where the judges scored it unanimously for Volkanovski. Before that loss, Holloway’s title reign at featherweight was so dominant that an immediate rematch was the likeliest scenario for Volkanovski’s first defense. 

Wrapping up the trifecta of championship fights at UFC 251 will be a bantamweight affair between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the vacant title. Aldo was initially scheduled to take on Henry Cejudo in April for the undisputed championship. Still, the travel restrictions forced Aldo out of the fight, and Cejudo defended against Dominick Cruz instead. Cejudo unexpectedly retired after the fight and relinquished his belt, leaving the UFC to match up Yan against Aldo to compete for the vacant belt. 


Also at UFC 251 will be former strawweight champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas facing each other, as well as the long-awaited return of Paige VanZant against Amanda Ribas in the flyweight division. 


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The three remaining cards on Fight Island will take place on July 15, 18, and 25. The fights for these are still being finalized. Still, the July 18 card is expected to be headlined by a rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight title ーa title also once held and vacated by former double champion Henry Cejudo.

The first fight between Figueiredo and Benavidez in February was also scheduled to be for the vacant belt, but Figueiredo missed weight by 2.5 pounds before the fight. The fight went on with only Benavidez being eligible to win the title, but Figueiredo scored a 2nd round TKO victory, leaving the belt vacant and the division on hold. 

Fight Island could not come soon enough for the UFC, as they have been putting on shows nonstop since UFC 249 in May, nearly exhausting their American-based talent pool. Fighters like Gilbert Burns and Brian Kelleher have stepped up multiple times in the last few months to ease the burden. Still, an event overseas will finally allow international fighters to compete moving forward. 


Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is a 15-square-mile tourist destination featuring attractions like Ferrari World and the Yas Marina Circuit, where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula One race is held yearly.


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During the UFC’s month-long visit, about 10 square miles of the island will be privatized for the fighters and production crew as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Fighters will have private training facilities, hotels, and restaurants available during their visits, and the Octagon will be placed on the beach.

As if crowdless events where fighters and cornermen can be heard on television weren’t enough of a treat, the UFC continues to make the best of the pandemic by giving fans something we have only seen in Bruce Lee movies. Bring on the Fight Island classics and prepare for the ESPN documentary years down the line. This will be must-see TV.

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-Leo Schauer – Franchise Sports Media 

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