Kirsty O’Connor, UFC
The UFC’s island retreat could turn into a more permanent home in the coming months.
Following UFC 251 taking place at in Abu Dhabi this past weekend, the promotion has three more events coming up in the next 11 days on Yas Island, and even when those are finished, UFC President Dana White thinks it’s possible that they’ll be back on “Fight Island” sooner rather than later.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC has been one of the few sports and entertainment organizations to be able to return to a relatively normal schedule, with Jacksonville, Fla., and Las Vegas also hosting fight cards. Las Vegas is home to the organization’s UFC APEX facility, which is where the previous five UFC events aired from.
However, with several states in the United States still struggling with COVID-19 precautions, including Nevada, White told reporters at a media scrum in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday that upcoming events planned for the APEX may end up happening on “Fight Island” instead.
“My backup plan would be ‘Fight Island,’” White said. “We might be living here.”
“Anything is possible,” he continued. “If Nevada shuts down and doesn’t allow us to do fights in Nevada, yeah, I mean we spend a lot of time in Abu Dhabi.”
White has said on multiple occasions that due to the fact that there is no clear endpoint for when businesses can return to regular protocol due to coronavirus precautions, he can’t say for sure how the UFC’s plans will change even as it continues to book fights and event dates.
From what he’s seen so far, White praised Abu Dhabi for its safety protocol, which has also allowed him to roam outside of the designated “safe zone” so that he and a crew can film a show.
“We knew we were doing that when we came,” White said of leaving the zone. “Same protocol. Everybody that we were in contact with and everybody that had anything to do with us was tested multiple times. Realistically, Abu Dhabi is the safest place in the world.”
“Everybody’s healthy,” he added. “It’s all good. Literally, not one negative thing that I could point out. I’ve been talking to people—especially here from Abu Dhabi that were involved in the event—I’ve had meetings since the fight and they’re like, ‘What could we do better next time?’ I’m like, I wish that I could tell you something negative. I wish I could tell you something that didn’t go perfect and that wasn’t perfect. Everything here has been perfect.
“When you think about the safety zone that we’re in, from the restaurants to the hotels and the service and everything else, it literally could not be done better than this. If you look at all the other places, California just shut down again, and what’s going on in the states, you couldn’t execute a better event with better facilities, with better food for everybody, and the list just goes on and on. It could not be better.”
White didn’t say anything official about when the UFC might return to Abu Dhabi after July, but he guaranteed that there would be more events in the city, with the hope that Las Vegas remains an option.
“We’ve proved that we can do these things in Nevada or anywhere safely,” White said. “So hopefully we get to keep doing what we do in Nevada and we keep coming to Abu Dhabi for international fights. That’s what I’m hoping, but yes, I’m thinking about what happens if we get shut down and what’s next.”