Bring it on: UFC is a start, Abu Dhabi is ready for more

Many international entities have made approaches to host events in the coronavirus-free bubble on Yas Island

  
Abu Dhabi confirmed as host of the UFC’s historic Fight Island in July, in a groundbreaking collaboration with the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion. Image Courtesy: WAM

Abu Dhabi confirmed as host of the UFC’s historic Fight Island in July, in a groundbreaking collaboration with the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion. Image Courtesy: WAM

The spread of Covid-19 and the threat of a second wave is likely to affect staging of sporting events around the world for a while. To date, UFC President Dana White said the fighters will be "going back-and-forth to Abu Dhabi" from its headquarters in Las Vegas "until the world comes back". But it's not just the Mixed Martial Arts promotion that is likely to be hosted on Yas Island but other sporting events too.

Abu Dhabi is willing to dedicate the 11-km 'Safe Zone' for hosting events which aren't possible in other countries of the world, top officials told the Khaleej Times.

Walking the talk, Abu Dhabi has flown in UFC athletes from Brazil even as they are unable to enter the US due to pandemic travel restrictions.

Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said the many approaches have been made by other organisers to host events in the coronavirus-free bubble on Yas Island.

"Definitely we are ready to host other events. We have done a lot of things specifically for the UFC. But this place and the bubble will be available for any other sports. We have been approached by different global organisations and we are studying all the proposals which are on the table."

The local authorities have deployed more than 1,500 event personnel and Yas Island employees within the 'Safe Zone' to ensure strict Covid-19 precautionary measures. The entry roads have been sealed and access restricted for the general public. Local authorities have gone the extra mile with stringent safety measures and also conducted thousands of Covid-19 tests of staff and fighters - a process that still continues.

"The good thing is that Abu Dhabi has a good reputation when it comes to international competitions. Last year, we had a success story with the UFC fights in September. And that led to many international entities approaching us to host the sports events in Abu Dhabi during these circumstances. We can assure the health and safety of everyone who will be in Abu Dhabi. So we are studying everything. There is nothing confirmed. Only the UFC for now, but maybe in the future you will hear something," Al Shaiba said.

Meanwhile, Saeed Al Saeed, Destination Marketing Director at Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said the authorities are ready to commit all the facilities in the Safe Zone, including hotels, beaches, golf course and food and beverages outlet for other events.

"We are ready to dedicate this zone not just for the UFC but any world-class event that is unable to be carried out in their part of the world."

Until July end, only UFC team and Yas Island employees are allowed access to the Safe Zone. And the fights in the Flash Forum will be sans spectators.

"We are ready to prepare all the necessary arrangements just as we did with the Fight Island. The decision will always remain with the organiser for they need to be capable of handling their logistics and schedule like the UFC's ability to get their fighters and fight cards. We will always look at opportunities and never say no. Abu Dhabi has proven that impossible is possible with hard work and dedication."

By all counts, action on Fight Island is unlikely to end with the UFC 251 and three Fight Nights starting this Sunday.

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