The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi have confirmed the return to the capital of UFC Fight Island, with the second series beginning as expected next week and featuring five events in all.
As reported last week, the upcoming run will kick off on Yas Island on September 27 with a UFC 253 that features two title bouts, while it concludes on October 24 with UFC 254, headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov's long-awaited comeback. There will be three events in between, on October 4, 11 and 18.
In a press release on Thursday, UFC president Dana White said: “This stretch of fights is going to be insane and I can't wait.”
Bookended by pay-per-view shows, "Return to UFC Fight Island" marks the first time in the promotion's history that consecutive numbered events have been hosted in the same city outside of Las Vegas. Last year, Abu Dhabi signed a five-year partnership with the UFC.
Similar to the inaugural Fight Island, which took place in July, the organisation's latest residency will be staged once more inside a designated “safe zone”, which accommodates the entire operation. At present, and in line with current public health guidelines, spectators will again not be able to attend the events.
“UFC Fight Island proved to be a tremendous success and its rapid return is testament to the strength of our partnership with UFC, and the global confidence in Abu Dhabi's ability and preparedness to host major international events with the highest standards of health and safety,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.
“The return of the UFC Fight Island concept underlines both Abu Dhabi’s commitment to global sporting and tourism events as well as the collaborative approach taken by various government departments to ensure the emirate is ready to safely welcome back visitors, business and more major international events across multiple sectors.”
Featuring two championship bouts, UFC 253 is headlined by middleweight champion Israel Adesanya's defence against No 2-ranked challenger Paulo Costa. Both men are undefeated. On the same card, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will contest the vacant light heavyweight crown.
Meanwhile, UFC 254 is topped by Nurmagomedov's highly anticipated return to the octagon, where the lightweight champion takes on interim title-holder Justin Gaethje.
Unbeaten in all 28 professional fights, Nurmagomedov has not fought since last September's victory against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, which also took place in Abu Dhabi. The full cards for Fight Island have yet to be finalised.
White, who last week confirmed the second Abu Dhabi residency for the promotion, said: “Fight Island was a massive success in every way that you can measure success.
"While the rest of the world shut down, we worked with our partners in Abu Dhabi to put on the best live sporting experience, and we did it safely and responsibly. The infrastructure they have in place, from the arena, to the hotels, to the restaurants, is second to none, and we’re excited to be going back.
“Return to Fight Island will showcase some of the best fights of the year, including one that I’ve predicted has ‘Fight of the Year’ potential. This stretch of fights is going to be insane and I can’t wait.”
As was in place at the inaugural Fight Island, a mandatory period of quarantine and negative Covid-19 test is required before entry into the safe zone, while regular testing will be conducted throughout the series.
"Return to UFC Fight Island" will be broadcast in the UAE and across the Mena region on UFC Arabia.