After months of teasing, it appears to be real: The UFC will be hosting four cards in July on Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. UFC President Dana White confirmed the news to ESPN’s First Take this morning.
Yas Island is a man-made island resort directly off the coast of the emirate, and was actually once part of the nation, but a canal was dredged as part of the construction of the Yas Marina circuit created to host the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009. There’s hotels, shopping, a water park, a Warner Brothers theme park, a Sea World, a mall that holds your bags for you or just ships everything to your house, and plenty more.
It’s designed as a tourist destination, and now it will host fighters and an octagon that will actually be on the beach, though only for training.
The designated area of Yas Island that will make up Fight Island includes an arena, hotel, training facilities and dining establishments, per the UFC. It will also include a “safety zone” of 10 square miles, in which the only people permitted will consist of athletes, coaches, UFC staff and limited personnel.
The four fight card will lead with UFC 251 on July 11th, with a main event of Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns (now we know how Herbert Burns knew it was Abu Dhabi). Featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski takes on Max Holloway in a rematch from last year, and Petr Yan will take on Jose Aldo in an eliminator for the open bantamweight title. The winner of that fight will face Alhjamain Sterling for the title after his win at UFC 250 on Saturday night.
How the time difference will work here will be interesting, as Abu Dhabi is eight hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, and 11 hours in front of Pacific Time. Will these fights take place in the morning abroad to cater to an American audience, or will people be staying up late or pulling an all-nighter? We’ll find out when you do.
So yes, Fight Island is a thing and it’s happening. And apologies to HBO’s John Oliver: No UF-SEA residuals for you.