UFC Fight Night: Dana White says Abu Dhabi will host more international events

UFC president responds 'we’re going to have another run of events out here’ when asked if promotion would return in October

Dana White says the UFC will return to Abu Dhabi in October for another series of events, with Fight Island a back-up plan should the coronavirus pandemic prevent shows from being held in Las Vegas.

The capital plays host this month to the inaugural Fight Island, a four-event festival that opened at Flash Forum on Sunday with the hugely successful UFC 251.

Reports on Monday claimed the event generated about 1.3 million pay-per-view buys in the United States, clocking in at the sixth-largest in the promotion's history – and highest since Conor McGregor fought Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018.

Although there remain three more shows on Fight Island – Fight Night 1 takes place early on Thursday – White was quizzed on Tuesday about the UFC coming back to Abu Dhabi in October.

Asked if anything was official, the promotion’s president said: “Not officially. But yes, we’re going to have another run of events out here. If you look at what’s going on in the world, I don’t see this changing any time soon.”

The UFC moves back to its Las Vegas base following the conclusion to Fight Island on July 26, with events planned throughout August and into September.

But with the United States one of the countries worst-affected by the coronavirus, White conceded he may have to look at other options. Abu Dhabi, which last year signed a five-year deal with the UFC, would be the obvious destination to step in as host.

“My back-up plan would be Fight Island,” White said. “We might be living here. Anything is possible. If Nevada shuts down and doesn’t allow us to do fights, I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Abu Dhabi.

“We’ve proved that we can do these things in Nevada safely. And hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing, and we can keep coming to Abu Dhabi for international fights.”

White did not confirm the PPV numbers for UFC 251, which was headlined by Kamaru Usman's successful title defence against Jorge Masvidal. It also featured two more title bouts.

“It was a very successful event,” White said. “We’re happy this thing killed it across the board in every way you could possibly kill it. It was awesome. The thing did really well.

“When you put on a fight, a successful promotion of an event is this big melting pot of different things. Fight Island was a massive star in this thing, Masvidal was a massive star; obviously Usman, the champion and the guy that we’re all starting to realise is tough to beat. And a great card underneath it. It all came together perfectly and it was a major success.

“Everybody’s healthy, it’s all good. Literally not one negative thing to point out. I’ve been talking to people especially here from Abu Dhabi who were involved in the event – I’ve had meetings since the fight and they’re like ‘What could we do better next time?’. I’m like ‘I wish I could tell you something negative. I wish I could tell you something that didn’t go perfect and wasn’t perfect’.

“Everything here has been perfect. This safety zone we’re in, from the restaurants to the hotels and the service and everything else, it literally could not be done better than this. If you look at all the other places… California just shut down again, and what’s going on in the States. You couldn’t execute a better event with better facilities, better food for everybody. The list just goes on and on. It could not be better.”

White confirmed he spent time earlier on Tuesday looking for a house in Abu Dhabi, saying he saw “a couple of things I like” but had yet to commit to anything.

He was again asked about Khabib Nurmagomedov, with the unbeaten lightweight champion's immediate future unknown following the death of his father earlier this month.

“I’m not messing with Khabib, I’m leaving him alone until he’s ready to talk,” White said. “Letting him mourn and do what he has to do. I reached out to him the day of and I haven’t heard back from him since.”

On whether Nurmagomedov’s initial expected September return to the octagon was no longer possible, White added: “I don’t think it’s off the table. Just waiting to hear from him.”