The UFC returns to Abu Dhabi this week for its third Fight Island series, which concludes with Conor McGregor’s eagerly anticipated comeback. Here are the details.
What is it?
Fight Island 3 - "Triple Header Week" - featuring three events in nine days, which opens the UFC's 2021 calendar. Fight Island was created by the UFC primarily to allow its international athletes to compete during the pandemic. There have been two residencies thus far in the capital: a four-event run in July, and a five-show series that straddled September and October. Both were resounding successes for the promotion.
However, in a break from those two runs, spectators will be able to attend all three events this month – the first time the UFC has staged shows with a live audience since last March. Limited tickets went on sale on Friday.
When is it? (All times UAE)
January 16 - Fight Night: Holloway v Kattar. Doors open 6:30pm, with prelims starting 9pm. Main card begins midnight (Jan 17).
January 20 - Fight Night: Chiesa v Magny. Doors open 3:30pm, with prelims starting 6pm. Main card begins at 9pm.
January 24 - UFC 257. Doors open 12:30am, with early prelims starting 3am and the prelims at 5am. Main card begins at 7am.
Where is it?
Unlike past series, the UFC will be hosted at Etihad Arena on Yas Island – marking the first time the new venue has held events. The previous two residencies took place behind closed doors at Flash Forum, which was housed inside a “safe zone bubble”. This time, UFC personnel, athletes and coaches, and everyone connected to the running of Fight Island (media, resort employees, etc) will stay within the bubble.
Who is fighting?
Full cards for all three events have not yet been confirmed. However, the three headline acts are set: the first Fight Night sees former featherweight champion Max Holloway take on fast-rising Calvin Kattar. Holloway, the division’s No 1-ranked contender, has not competed since Fight Island 1 in July, when he lost for a second time on points to champion Alexander Volkanovski. Kattar, the 6th-ranked challenger, fought too in Abu Dhabi, defeating Dan Ige on points.
Fight Night 2 is topped by an intriguing welterweight battle between Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny. Originally planned as a co-main event, it pits against one another two fighters enjoying three-bout winning streaks.
The series culminates with UFC 257, the first pay-per-view event of the year. It is headlined by McGregor's return to the octagon for the first time in more than a year, when the former two-division champion takes on Dustin Poirier in a rematch of their 2014 clash. McGregor, one of the biggest draws in sport, prevailed then by first-round TKO. Poirier has competed in Abu Dhabi before, in the lightweight unification bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242, while McGregor makes his UAE debut.
There are a number of interesting match-ups at UFC 257, including Michael Chandler's long-awaited promotional debut. The three-time Bellator lightweight champion takes on the dangerous Dan Hooker, whose most recent appearance – a points defeat to Poirier in June – was a 2020 Fight of the Year contender.
How to attend
Tickets for the three events can be found at www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices begin at Dh595 for the two Fight Nights. However, such has been the demand for UFC 257, that at present individual tickets are unavailable. Ticket packages - combining UFC 257 with the two other events - remain.
A wide range of Covid protocols are in place for attending fans, including presenting a negative PCR test, valid from 48 hours out from the event. Organisers have stressed that all security and Covid-19 checks will take up to an hour before entry, so fans are requested to plan their trip accordingly.
How to watch
Fight fans in the UAE can catch the action through the UFC Arabia app. Limited coverage can be found also on Abu Dhabi Sports.