UFC's historic Fight Island 'reaffirms' Abu Dhabi’s standing in global sport

UAE Warriors chief Darwish says four-night event on Yas Island shows that 'anything is possible' in the capital

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UFC's historic Fight Island reaffirms Abu Dhabi’s standing in the global MMA and sporting scene, according to UAE Warriors chief Fouad Darwish.

The festival will feature four events at Yas Island, starting with the UFC 251 on July 11 followed by three fight nights on July 15, 18 and 25.

And Darwish, general manager of Palms Sports who oversee the UAE Warriors, says it is the latest example of how Abu Dhabi is now a major player in the sporting world.

“That’s the first thing that comes to my mind and in my opinion, it reaffirms the level of sporting infrastructure that is in place in Abu Dhabi,” he said, reacting to the capital city’s collaboration with the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion.

“It is not easy for a city to avail a safe zone or a safe new city while the world is combating the Covid-19 situation.

“The safe zones are not confined to the venue alone but it provides all those fighters residence and training facilities.

"It takes such mammoth efforts to facilitate such an event at such times when social distancing remains the name of the game.

“I can’t imagine the UFC could to four fight nights in two weeks. This is unprecedented but in Abu Dhabi everything is possible.”

The event actually coincides with the UAE Warriors' 12-fight card slated for July 31 at the Mubadala Arena.

“We drew up our calendar at the beginning of the year and it was purely a coincidence the UAE Warriors 12 comes soon after the UFC fight nights,” Darwish said.

“With all due respects to all other MMA competitions, especially the UFC, our calendar has never been considered to clash with other competitions.

“We have our own followers but of course we look at the global viewers and try to avoid any clashes for our global audience as much as possible, but we never changed our schedules in response to other competitions once our calendar is drawn.

“We have already planned our calendar at the beginning of the year and we stick to it. But certainly this UFC announcement has made our July 31 fight card so much better.

“It’s only natural for people to be aware the UFC fight cards conclude with the Warriors 12. Now [we have] to build up a platform from the UFC fight nights.”

The Warriors 11 takes place on Friday and Darwish believes the event is growing in stature worldwide.

“We are very cognisant where we stand as the UAE Warriors in the global scene at the moment,” he said.

“We are only 16 months [old] and are still in the preliminary stages but we can leap forward a good distance because Abu Dhabi and MMA mega events are now becoming synonymous.

“Already, we are finding it very favourable and easy to improve the UAE Warriors presence globally.

“It is so much easier for people to compare the UFC event with ours. We will try to take the momentum forward and are confident our fight card will draw a big response.”