Revealed: UFC Covid-19 protocols for fighters taking part in Abu Dhabi's Fight Island

Everyone travelling next month for UFC 251 will be tested five times in all, including before they arrive in the capital

An artist rendition of what the arena will look like for the Fight Island venue to be held on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. Courtesy DCT - Abu Dhabi
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Fighters competing at Fight Island next month will test five times in all for Covid-19, including before they arrive in Abu Dhabi, in a departure to the UFC’s usual coronavirus protocols.

The capital was confirmed earlier this month as host of a four-event series on Yas Island, kicking off with UFC 251 on July 12 and continuing with shows on July 16, 19 and 26. A 25km "safe zone" on the island has been created to house everybody connected to the operation on site. Fans are not allowed to attend.

The UFC has been in constant dialogue with officials in Abu Dhabi, with fighters and their camps provided guidelines this week as to what to expect once they depart for the UAE.

The National has obtained a copy of the international delegate guide (PDF), which outlines the protocols put in place from departure for the Emirates to the safe zone.

The respective parties will first make their way to a one of the specified regional hubs – Las Vegas, Sao Paulo, London and Moscow – from where they will take chartered flights to Abu Dhabi early next month. They will arrive into the airport’s VIP terminal.

Fighters, corner people and UFC staff will be tested from 48 hours prior to flying to the emirate in what will mark the first time the UFC has administered tests outside of an event’s host city.

They will be tested twice more, once through passport control in Abu Dhabi and then when they arrive at the W Abu Dhabi hotel on Yas Island, and are expected to quarantine until results are returned. From there, and should tests come back negative, they have free movement across the safe zone.

There will be another test on the same day of the weigh-in and then once more after fight night, before the respective parties are escorted to the airport for departure. UFC staff, fighters and teams are expected to begin to touch down in Abu Dhabi from July 3.

UFC 251 is headlined by Kamaru Usman's welterweight title defence against Gilbert Burns, the No 1-ranked challenger. On what is a stacked opening card, two more title fights will take place: Australia's Alexander Volkanovski defends his featherweight crown in his rematch with former champion Max Holloway, while Petr Yan faces Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt.

All four cards have been confirmed, comprising 47 bouts across two weeks. The third event, set for July 19, features another title clash when Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez go toe-to-toe for the vacant flyweight crown.

Fight Island, first mentioned in April by UFC president Dana White, was created to ensure fighters living outside the United States could compete amid travel restrictions implemented because of the coronavirus pandemic.