Sports across the globe were hit hard by the covid pandemic, but despite this, the UFC had hardly any time off and continued to broadcast live shows and break their annual revenue records. How did they do it?
In this article, we’ll be going over what UFC Fight Island is, why the UFC used Fight Island, how much they paid for it, whether it’ll be used again by the UFC, and more.
- What Is UFC Fight Island and Where Is Fight Island Located?
- Why Did the UFC Use Fight Island?
- Why Is Fight Island in Abu Dhabi? (How Did They Keep It So Safe?)
- How Much Did Dana White Pay For Fight Island? (Did They Buy It?)
- Will the UFC Go Back To Fight Island?
- How Much Does It Cost To Go To Fight Island?
- UFC Fight Island Capacity – Is Fight Island Open to the Public?
- What Time Is It on Fight Island?
What Is UFC Fight Island and Where Is Fight Island Located?
UFC Fight Island is an actual island known as Yas island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It’s referred to as Fight Island as the UFC held 13 events there in 2020/2021 during the covid-19 pandemic, and the island was opened exclusively for the UFC to broadcast its events.
Dana White originally referred to Fight Island as a private island, when attempting to get the UFC as the first sport back up and running. Yas Island has a total space of 9.7 square miles, is separated from the mainland by water, and is located on the coast, northwest of Abu Dhabi’s International Airport.
Yas Island is a popular leisure and entertainment spot, holding Formula 1 Grand Prix events at the Marina circuit, while the du Arena and Etihad Arena (holds 18,000) host a variety of concerts, sports, and business events. The island is also home to Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World, Warner Bros World, and Yas Mall, among many other tourist attractions.
Why Did the UFC Use Fight Island?
The reason the UFC used Fight Island is so they could continue operating during the covid pandemic, which affected sports worldwide, with the UFC being no different.
From March 21st, 2020 to May 2, 2020, 1 UK event and 4 US UFC events were canceled because of covid complications, with all future events on hold indefinitely. This led Dana White to urgently seek a solution, and the solution was Fight Island.
Fight Island offered the UFC a way to operate because they could abide by covid protocols, and keep the events as safe as possible for all UFC fighters, staff, and anyone involved.
As most UFC events are in the USA, and they have many non-American fighters, Fight Island was a way around these fighters being denied entry to the USA because of covid travel restrictions, and many fights being canceled as a result.
Fight Island was a perfect home to have the event, as it meant minimal traveling for everyone involved, and everything required by fighters was catered for. The island has elite-level training facilities, as well as an octagon on the beach for fighters to train.
Not only this, but fighters had shuttles to move around the island, as well as restaurants specifically catering to their dietary needs.
Why Is Fight Island in Abu Dhabi? (How Did They Keep It So Safe?)
The main reason Fight island is in Abu Dhabi is because it allowed the UFC to continue during the pandemic, as the island could be kept so safe.
They did this by creating a covid-free bubble on Fight Island, protected by strict testing measures for gaining entry and leaving. Before the arrival of the UFC, 1600 event personnel had to quarantine on Fight Island for two weeks and were required to have three negative covid tests before they could leave quarantine. The same rules applied to the UFC personnel flying in.
Every 72 hours after this, a new test was taken to maintain the integrity of the bubble. Anyone required to leave the zone has to quarantine again for 48 hours before reentering and be retested again. There were a total of 8,000 tests taken leading up to the opening event, UFC 251.
Moreover, to maintain the bubble, Fight Island had roads blocked and a buffer zone created between the island and the blockage. Of the island’s 9.7 square miles land area, 6 square miles were sectioned off as Fight Island’s safe zone. Police were stationed on the outskirts of the safe zone and on the outside of the blockages, requiring anyone entering or leaving to have a permit to pass.
Fight Island had 11 charters, flying from only 4 destinations, London, Moscow, Nevada, and Sao Paulo. When UFC fighters or staff arrived, they were chaperoned by police escort to Fight Island, which was a short journey as the airport is very close to Yas Island.
Live events were kept safe because the production at Fight Island was makeshift and made into portable rooms, this meant everything was more easily separated as a way to follow covid procedures and continue social distancing.
How Much Did Dana White Pay For Fight Island? (Did They Buy It?)
The UFC didn’t buy Fight Island and was only renting the island during the pandemic. When originally looking for a ‘private island’, White said it would be extremely expensive, but it was a worthwhile investment to have the UFC operating.
However, it turns out the UFC got an amazing deal and was paid a hosting fee by the UAE government (undisclosed), who also paid for all covid costs, accommodation, food, facilities for fighters, construction, and production costs.
The exact numbers aren’t known but probably cost Abu Dhabi tens of millions of dollars. The biggest costs were because they had to create a production ecosystem from scratch, as well as put in a lot of construction work on the stadiums.
The UFC only had to pay their normal expenses such as flights and wages for all UFC personnel. Wages likely would have been extra to pay for the inconvenience and willingness to travel, seeing as everyone has to leave their home countries and stay inside the Fight Island bubble.
The reason the UFC was given such an amazing deal is that the UAE has tourism as one of its key growth factors, and they believed hosting the UFC’s events was an investment that would bring them increased tourism for many years after the covid pandemic ends and travel is back to normal.
Will the UFC Go Back To Fight Island?
The UFC will be going back to Fight Island for UFC 281, on October 22nd, 2022, and they have a history of returning to Fight Island, as they’ve had 3 previous events in Abu Dhabi, in 2010, 2014, and 2016.
They’ll also host at least one PPV event there in 2023, as in 2019 the UFC and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism signed a 5-year deal, which was an agreement the UFC would host one PPV event in UAE each year. This deal was one of the reasons the UFC got such a good deal for Fight Island and paid so little.
More deals are expected in the future as Dana White is a huge fan of UAE, previously calling “Abu Dhabi the fight capital of the world since Las Vegas wimped out during the pandemic”.
White also received a UAE golden visa at the UFC 267 weigh-ins, meaning he now has a 10-year residency, which increases the chance of further events being held there.
On top of this, White is looking to grow the market in the middle east region, by scouting for new talented fighters, hosting more events there, and growing the fan base. This is evidenced by the UFC signing their first Arab-based fighter, Mounir Lazzez, in 2020.
Lastly, the UFC will go back to Fight Island based on the huge success their events have had there. Despite there being no fans, the UFC sold 1.3M PPV buys for UFC 251, headlined by Usman vs Masvidal. This was the first event held there during covid times, and it became the UFC’s 8th largest PPV event.
This was then smashed by Poirier vs McGregor 2, which had 1.6M buys – becoming their third-highest PPV event of all time. It’s therefore no surprise the UFC will return to Fight Island after UAE helped them through the pandemic and can be considered one of the reasons the UFC posted a record-breaking $1 billion revenue in 2021.
How Much Does It Cost To Go To Fight Island?
Costs to go to Fight Island during the pandemic, and costs to go in 2022 and beyond are likely to remain similar. This is because, during the pandemic, prices were lower than usual as a way to get the initial custom, especially in terms of flights and accommodation. Although, covid costs would have brought the price up to roughly around what it’ll cost today.
Ticket prices will mostly depend on the seating you choose, and can also depend on the event taking place. The annual events held on Fight Island are PPV events so ticket prices will be higher, whereas, during the pandemic, many of the events were fight nights which have lower ticket prices; meaning these nights were cheaper.
The exact costs are different from person to person, but can be broken down like this:
Ticket Costs – The cost for tickets to fight island varies, and for UFC 257: Poirier vs McGregor 2, prices ranged from $215 to $1350, depending on the seating. The average price is around $750.
Return Flights – Depending on where you are flying from, flights to and from UAE cost between $600-$1500.
Accommodation – Expect to pay $150+ per night.
Extras – $100 for food, travel costs, and miscellaneous expenses.
A weekend trip to Fight Island to watch the UFC will likely cost at least $1500, everything included. This is expensive to see a UFC event, especially for fans in the US or Europe – which is why the UFC is hoping to build a bigger fan base in the Middle East, who will find it easier to attend events.
UFC Fight Island Capacity – Is Fight Island Open to the Public?
During the early stages of the pandemic, Fight Island wasn’t open to the public as the safe zone was considered a covid-free bubble, and movement in and out was restricted. From July 12, 2020, to October 24, 2020, the UFC held 9 events at Fight Island with 0 fans attending.
The first UFC Fight Island event open to the public was UFC Fight Island 7: Holloway vs Kattar on January 16, 2021. It was also the first Fight Island event at the Etihad Arena, as opposed to the du Forum. The Etihad Arena has a capacity of 18,000 but only 2,000 – 2,600 fans were allowed to go during the pandemic.
The last event taking place was headlined by the championship fight between Blachowicz and Texeira (UFC 267), with a total attendance of 10,171 fans; meaning the Etihad Arena was more than half full. With the next event in October 2022, expect the capacity to be near maximum as covid becomes less of a problem.
What Time Is It on Fight Island?
The timezone Abu Dhabi uses is called the Gulf Standard Time (GMT+4) which is 8 hours ahead of New York. The timings vary for every event and there’s no exact start time, so it’s best to check online before the next scheduled Fight Island event.
Here’s the schedule used for the first 5 Fight Island events:
Sat, Sept. 26 – UFC 253: ADESANYA VS. COSTA
- Main card – 10 p.m. ET / 6 a.m. GST
- Late Prelims – 8 p.m. ET 4 a.m. GST
- Early Prelims – 6:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 a.m. GST
Sat, Oct. 3 – UFC FIGHT NIGHT: HOLM vs. ALDANA
- Main Card – 10:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 a.m. GST
- Prelims – 7:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 a.m. GST
Sat, Oct. 10 – UFC FIGHT NIGHT: MORAES vs. SANDHAGEN
- Main card – 8 p.m. ET / 4 a.m. GST
- Prelims – 5 p.m. ET / 1 a.m. GST
Sat, Oct. 17. UFC FIGHT NIGHT: ORTEGA vs. THE KOREAN ZOMBIE
- Main card – 7 p.m. ET / 3 a.m. GST
- Prelims – 4 p.m. ET / 12 a.m. GST
UFC 254: Khabib VS. GAETHJE
- Main card – 2 p.m. ET / 10 p.m. GST
- Late Prelims – 12 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GST
- Early Prelims – 10:15 a.m. ET / 6:15 p.m. GST
Fight Island was huge for the UFC and without it, they wouldn’t have had such a good 2020 or 2021. With their last event scheduled to be in 2023, it’s highly likely they’ll keep attending Fight Island in UAE because of their relationship since the pandemic started, and the fact they’re trying to grow a market in the Middle East.