UFC 251: Dana White says Abu Dhabi has been 'amazing' and 'Fight Island’s tough to beat'

UFC president can't wait for the next part of the four-event festival

With the Fight Island opener in the books, Dana White has praised the series’ Abu Dhabi organisers, saying there’s not one thing they have not excelled at thus far.

UFC 251 kicked off the inaugural, four-event festival on Sunday, with three world title bouts headlining a stacked, 13-fight card at Flash Forum. Shows now follow this Wednesday, Sunday and then on July 26.

UFC president White, who created Fight Island to allow international athletes to compete during the coronavirus pandemic, said he has been greatly impressed by the whole operation. The UFC and Abu Dhabi last year signed a five-year partnership.

“I always like to get the first one behind me and we did,” White said. “And I’m looking forward to Wednesday now and just knocking them down. It’s been great; this is amazing.

"When you think about all the places we could possibly go - possibly go if everything was normal but everything is not normal - the service here from the restaurants to the hotels to everything.

“You literally can’t do it better than this. The Apex [UFC facility in Las Vegas] is great - I spent $100 million [Dh367m] on that building and I love it - but Fight Island’s tough to beat.

“Everything’s been great. If I had to criticise anything that’s happened this week, so far I can’t. There’s not one thing I could point to that hasn’t been great and over the top, especially considering the circumstances and the amount of time we had to pull this off.

“It’s unbelievable. Nobody else is doing it; nobody else has done it. I knew this was the place to do it. I’ve been in business with these guys for over a decade and they’re very, very good at what they do.”

UFC 251 was headlined by Kamaru Usman’s successful welterweight title defence against Jorge Masvidal, with Alexander Volkanovski also retaining his featherweight crown in his rematch with Max Holloway. Both bouts went to the judges.

Meanwhile, Petr Yan defeated Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt, although there was controversy in that many felt the referee should have stopped the contest before he eventually did with little more than 90 seconds left on the clock. Aldo, a former featherweight champion, had taken a serious beating throughout the final round.

"Horrible, horrible stoppage by the referee,” White said. “It should’ve been stopped way sooner. It looks like we have to tighten up our refs and judges here in Fight Island.”

Asked about if he thought it was right to not offer Paige VanZant a UFC deal following her final fight, first-round submission loss to Amanda Ribas, White said: “I like Paige. When you talk all that stuff about not getting paid enough... fighting inconsistently, one time in the last year and injuries. And then got smoked in the first round. She should definitely test free agency.”

Updated: July 12, 2020 06:30 PM

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