Plans are in place for fans to attend UFC events on ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi in the near future.
After a short, coronavirus-enforced break from hosting fight cards back in spring, the UFC returned and soon held several events on Yas Island, nicknamed Fight Island, in July, before the promotion used its Apex institute throughout August and the majority of September.
The UFC has since returned to Fight Island, and crowds could soon be allowed to enter the bio-secure bubble established around the Flash Forum arena over the last several months.
Saeed al Saeed, Destination Marketing Director of the Department of Culture & Tourism in Abu Dhabi, has been a key figure in enabling Fight Island to function since an approach by UFC president Dana White in March.
Al Saeed told The Independent: “The plan [for fans to attend events] is in place, I can tell you that.
“We’re confident that we would be able to get fans into the stadium, it just needs to be approved. That’s why I can’t confirm that it’s a ‘go’ for now, but anticipate that we can announce something over the weekend.”
This Saturday evening sees a UFC Fight Night event on Fight Island headlined by a featherweight clash between former title contenders Brian Ortega and ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung.
It is unclear whether that event will come too soon for fan attendance to be permitted, but Al Saeed told The Independent: “We will not let fans come into the fights unless we are sure that not only is the risk brought down as close to zero as possible, but also that there is zero compromise when it comes to health and safety.
“That’s what gives us that confidence to go ahead, even when there is that chatter and concern of: ‘What if this happens or what if that happens?’ Because we have all of these contingencies.
“But we’re not alone in this operation; as the Department of Culture & Tourism in Abu Dhabi, we have one mandate that spans across multiple pillars, but at the end of the day, we have to work with our partners.
“We have to work with our partners at the Department of Health, at the Abu Dhabi Police, the Civil Defence, the other partners involved in the tourism and hospitality ecosystem. But we also have to work with other authorities that deal with the pandemic specifically.
“So the plan that we’ve put in place, we’re confident about. But it still needs to be endorsed, signed off and approved by all of these entities involved, to make sure that everyone’s happy – because if just one person vetoes it, it’s not gonna happen. Obviously there’s a logical reason for that.”
Abu Dhabi previously held UFC events in 2010 and 2014, and most recently – until Fight Island was established – last September, when Nurmagomedov successfully defended his title against Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 242.
That card was the first under a five-year contract struck between Abu Dhabi and the UFC.