When is UFC 251 and who is fighting? All you need to know about UFC Fight Island and its first event

Abu Dhabi confirmed as host for historic series, which will begin with a stacked card

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The UFC returns to Abu Dhabi next month, but not like we have seen before. The capital will host the inaugural Fight Island, a series of events taking place at one location across a two-week period, with the opener boasting one of the best cards of the year. Here are the details.

What is it?

First things first: the UFC have never produced a Fight Island before. In fact, this will most likely be a one-off. Faced with not being able to stage fights because of the coronavirus crisis, and then with subsequent travel restrictions impacting the United States and countries across the world, the promotion created the concept to allow their international athletes to compete. So Fight Island was born.

Its location has been a closely guarded secret, but last week Abu Dhabi was confirmed as hosts of the historic fight festival. It will comprise four events: July 12, 16, 19 and 26.

The first in the series will be UFC 251, a stacked, pay-per-view event featuring three title fights. The other three events each run under the "UFC Fight Night” banner.

Why Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi had already a close relationship with the UFC, but that was strengthened last year when it signed a five-year deal with the promotion. Under the agreement, the UFC agreed to put on one major event annually, as first seen with UFC 242 last September. Fight Island is viewed an "extension" of that existing relationship, and therefore doesn't impact the UFC's return to the emirate later this year - most probably in October.

When is it?

UFC 251

Friday, July 10: Weigh-ins from 7pm

Sunday, July 12: Early prelims live from 2am, prelims live from 4am, main card live from 6am

UFC Fight Nights

- UFC Fight Night - July 16. Event begins at 3am, with the main card kicking off at 6am.

- UFC Fight Night - July 19. Event begins at 2am, with the main card kicking off at 5am.

- UFC Fight Night - July 26. Event begins at 5am, with the main card kicking off at 8am.

Where is it?

Flash Forum will house all four events. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi have created a 25-kilometre "safe zone" on Yas Island that will be open only to fighters, coaches, UFC staff and other personnel deemed necessary to the operation. DCT-Abu Dhabi told The National they expect there will be more than 2,500 people on site for the duration of Fight Island.


UFC makes successful return to Abu Dhabi with UFC 242


Who is fighting?

The main card for UFC 251 is headlined by welterweight champion Kamaru Usman's title defence against Jorge Masvidal, who was an 11th-hour replacement for Gilbert Burns. Born in Nigeria, Usman has never been defeated in 11 UFC appearances, with a professional mixed martial arts record of 16-1. He captured the welterweight crown in March last year when he defeated Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision. Usman last fought in December, defending his title against Colby Covington.

Masvidal, meanwhile, stepped in for Burns earlier this week after the Brazilian tested positive for Covid-19 before leaving for the UAE. One of the sport's most popular fighters, Masvidal is a veritable veteran, with 35 victories and 13 defeats in his pro career. The American last fought in November, when he saw off Nate Diaz by TKO to claim the one-off "BMF" crown. With three wins in all through 2019, including a record-breaking, five-second knockout of Ben Askren, Masvidal was widely recognised as fighter of the year.

Elsewhere, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will go head-to-head for the second time in a rematch of their December clash. Australian Volkanovski won the original bout by unanimous decision to take Holloway’s title.

Rounding out the title fights, Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will face off for the vacant bantamweight crown following champion Henry Cejudo's decision to retire last month.

UFC 251's main card is completed by the highly anticipated rematch between former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, who first met in May last year, and the match-up at flyweight between Amanda Ribas and Paige Vanzant.

The fourth title bout on Fight Island pits No 1- and No 2-ranked flyweights Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight title in the main event on July 18. Figueiredo knocked out Benavidez in the second round of their first meeting in February, but he missed weight and the match was downgraded to a non-title fight.

The full cards for all four Fight Island events are listed below, although they are subject to change.

UFC 251, July 12

Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal - welterweight title bout

Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway - featherweight title bout

Petr Yan v Jose Aldo - bantamweight title bout

Jessica Andrade v Rose Namajunas

Amanda Ribas v Paige VanZant

Volkan Oezdemir v Jiri Prochazka

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos v Muslim Salikhov

Makwan Amirkhani v Dan Henry

Leonardo Santos v Roman Bogatov

Marcin Tybura v Alexander Romanov

Raulian Paiva v Zhalgas Zhumagulov

Karol Rosa v Vanessa Melo

Martin Day v Davey Grant

UFC Fight Night, July 16

Calvin Kattar v Dan Ige

Frankie Edgar v Pedro Munhoz

Carla Esparza v Marina Rodriguez

Abdul Razak Alhassan v Mounir Lazzez

Jared Gordon v Chris Fishgold

Modestas Bukauskas v Vinicius Moreira

Molly McCann v Taila Santos

Ricardo Ramos v Lerone Murphy

John Phillips v Dusko Todorovic

Tim Elliott v Ryan Benoit

Diana Belbita v Liana Jojua

UFC Fight Night July 19

Deiveson Figueiredo v Joseph Benavidez - flyweight title bout

Jack Hermansson v Kelvin Gastelum

Marc Diakiese v Rafael Fiziev

Ariane Lipski v Luana Carolina

Alexandre Pantoja v Askar Askarov

Roman Dolidze v Khakis Ibragimov

Grant Dawson v Nad Narimani

Joe Duffy v Joel Alvarez

Brett Johns v Montel Jackson

Tagir Ulanbekov v Alexander Doskalchuk

Davi Ramos v Arman Tsarukyan

Carlos Felipe v Sergei Spivac

UFC Fight Night, July 26

Robert Whittaker v Darren Till

Shogun Rua v Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Alex Oliveira v Peter Sobotta

Fabricio Werdum v Alexander Gustafsson

Danny Roberts v Nicolas Dalby

Tom Aspinall v Jake Collier

Justin Tafa v Raphael Pessoa

Movsar Evloev v Mike Grundy

Bethe Correia v Pannie Kianzad

Nathaniel Wood v Umar Nurmagomedov

Ramazan Emeev v Shavkat Rakhmonov

How to watch in UAE

Fight fans can watch the action through the UFC Arabia app.