This month’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi will take place at Etihad Arena and will be open to a “limited amount of fans” – the first time the UFC has staged events with spectators in almost one year.
The promotion returns to the capital for a third residency from January 16-24, a stretch that comprises three events in eight days. It culminates with Conor McGregor’s comeback against Dustin Poirier at UFC 257.
While the previous two series were held at Flash Forum and without fans, given the public health guidelines in place at the time, Etihad Arena will welcome spectators for Fight Nights (January 16 and 20) and the much-anticipated pay-per-view event (January 24).
In response to the global pandemic, the UFC has not held a show with fans since UFC 248 in Las Vegas on March 7.
Tickets for Fight Island 3 went on sale on Friday, although organisers did not confirm how many will be available for each event. Etihad Arena, which hosts its first event with the Fight Night on January 16, will not be at its full, 18,000 capacity.
The arena, said to be the Middle East’s largest state-of-the-art indoor entertainment venue, was scheduled to open in April, but the date had to be revised because of the pandemic.
“I’m pumped to start the year with a straight week of great fights – Saturday, Wednesday and Sunday – for fight fans all over the world with Fight Island Triple Header,” UFC president Dana White said.
“Following two highly-successful editions of UFC Fight Island and the recent Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to host major international events in a safe and secure environment this year.”
Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) said: “A third staging of UFC Fight Island in January not only cements Abu Dhabi’s standing as a world-class global destination for sport, but as one of the safest.
“Following the reopening of our emirate to international tourism, we are delighted to welcome fans to Etihad Arena, our new world-class events and entertainment venue on Yas Island.
"Abu Dhabi’s collaborative and coordinated response in tackling the spread of the coronavirus has inspired pioneering health measures to ensure a safe and secure environment.
“The UFC Fight Island Triple Header on Yas Island this month will once again shine the spotlight on why the UAE is the world’s coolest winter destination, where visitors to Abu Dhabi can safely experience the Emirate’s rich and diverse mix of culture, entertainment and lifestyle attractions.”
In December, DCT Abu Dhabi announced the reopening of the emirate to tourism, as well as a gradual return to event hosting, with strict guidelines in place that ensure the safety of the wider community.
To align with these guidelines, the athletes, coaches, UFC staff and resort employees will again be housed in a safe zone on Yas Island. There will also be additional restricted zones to allow for fans to safely attend the events.
"Fight Island Triple Header" tickets are available from Friday from 10am at etihadarena.ae and ticketmaster.ae. Prices start at Dh595 for the Fight Nights on January 16 and 20, and Dh795 for UFC 257 on January 24.
While the full cards have still be to announced, the three headline bouts are: former featherweight champion Max Holloway against Calvin Kattar on January 16, welterweights Michael Chiesa v Neil Magny four days later, and McGregor’s rematch against Poirier at UFC 257. The series kicks off the UFC’s 2021 programme.