Dana White says the UFC has “massive and major” long-term plans for Abu Dhabi, which he hopes to make public following a visit to the capital within the next month.
The emirate signed a five-year partnership with the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion in April 2019 to host one major event each year through to 2023, before then becoming a second home to the UFC during the coronavirus pandemic. Abu Dhabi staged three Fight Island series in little more than six months from July to January, featuring bouts between some of the most prominent stars in the sport.
The UFC is expected to return to the UAE in late October for UFC 267, although neither local organisers nor the promotion have officially confirmed its location. However, when asked on Tuesday by Canadian outlet TSN about UFC 267 in reference to Abu Dhabi, White said the card was “awesome” and that the event was set to take place at prime time local time. At present, a one-off UFC show – a reversion to the 2019 contract – appears most likely.
Speaking to UFC Arabia also on Tuesday, as he previewed this Sunday’s UFC 265 in Houston, White said he had just come off a conference call with local organisers in Abu Dhabi that morning.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m going to go to Abu Dhabi here soon, within the next 30 days. And hopefully when I leave there this time I can lay out to the media … I’ll hold a press conference and show everybody what’s next for Fight Island and Abu Dhabi over the next five to 10 years.
“We’re doing massive, major things over in Abu Dhabi. Massive. I’ve been dying to tell everybody, but I can’t until we get all the stuff figured out. And, unfortunately, it’s not going to be completely dialled in until I go there again. [The] schedule’s been nuts, but I’m going to get there in the next 30 days.”
Under the 2019 agreement, the UFC had committed to staging world-championship bout in Abu Dhabi per year. However, White announced the new "Fight Island" concept in April last year, as he sought to find a location that allowed international athletes to compete during the pandemic.
In July, Yas Island hosted the inaugural series, a four-event residency that began with UFC 251. The promotion returned in late September for a five-event run bookended by UFC 253 and UFC 254 – the latter included lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s final fight in the sport – and then again in January for three shows. That series, which officially opened Etihad Arena on Yas Island, ended with Conor McGregor’s knockout defeat to Dustin Poirier in their rematch at UFC 257.