- The UFC boss Dana White appears to be expecting a monstrously successful pay-per-view event on Saturday, July 11 – the first of four events on “Fight Island” this month.
- “Fight Island” is a quarantined area on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and you can see new photographs of what it is starting to look like, below.
- The UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman fights a late replacement in Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 251.
- If fan-favourite Masvidal wins and defends the title against Conor McGregor, it could be the biggest UFC fight ever, White said.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
FIGHT ISLAND – The UFC boss Dana White said UFC 251 – which is the company’s first “Fight Island” show in Abu Dhabi – is trending in such a way that it is already comparable to the most successful UFC fight of all time.
There has been great expectation about what “Fight Island” really is – whether there would be fighting on the sand, coconuts falling from trees, and Dana White sitting on a throne surrounded by tiki torches.
Though the UFC has been to Abu Dhabi before, most recently for UFC 242, the “Fight Island” reality is slightly different than prior trips to the United Arab Emirates because of the stringent coronavirus testing in place, together with many other health precautions.
There is also a training Octagon which was built in a quarantined area on the beach at Yas Island.
The “Fight Island” festival concept is one thing, but combined with the quality of Saturday’s card at UFC 251, which will take place inside an air-conditioned, closed to the public, and purpose-built venue called the Flash Forum, the pre-fight hype has been taken to another level, according to White.
“I was just telling those guys, I just left the fighting meeting. This thing is trending off the charts,” White told the media Friday.
UFC 251 features three title fights and many other compelling athletes taking part, but the show is headlined by the UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman making another defence of his title against a late replacement, Jorge Masvidal.
Usman was originally scheduled to fight Gilbert Burns, who is the No.1 contender in the division. However, Burns tested positive for the coronavirus late last week and was prevented from flying to Abu Dhabi.
Within a day, though, UFC decision-makers had successfully negotiated a deal with Masvidal to step-in on short notice.
After Masvidal tested negative for COVID-19, flew private to the UAE, quarantined, and lost 22-pounds to make weight at the 170-pound welterweight limit, the main event was on and White appeared to realise that he might have booked the most commercially successful fight of the year.
“Masvidal was brilliant to take this fight … when the fight fell out, Masvidal slid into that spot,” White said. “This thing is trending higher than a Conor McGregor fight. The only thing this fight is comparable to is Conor vs. Khabib [the best-selling UFC fight ever].
“Our UFC store … we’ve sold more merchandise now than we did in all of 2019. We already beat 2019 with merchandise. This thing is trending as big as I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” White said.
Masvidal vs. McGregor could be the UFC’s biggest fight of all time
“‘Fight Island’s’ not happened yet, but going into today, this is [already] one of the most successful events we’ve ever done, if you look at the numbers and what’s going on.
“It’s got to deliver now,” he said. “We’re doing right now what nobody else can do. Nobody else can pull off, what we’re pulling off, and I think a lot of people are fascinated by that.”
White was then asked, should Masvidal defeat Usman and add the welterweight title to his “Baddest Mother F—–” belt, then could a bout between him and McGregor become the biggest UFC fight ever.
“Yeah, it could be,” White said, before reigning it in. “I don’t know, I wanna get through tomorrow.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow. You know how difficult this sport is to run and manage.
“All the things that happen, the s— that’s happening, COVID-19, if one guy tests positive all hell breaks loose. I want tomorrow in my back-pocket, move on to Wednesday, then to Saturday.”
Here is the full UFC 251 card on Saturday:
- Kamaru Usman (C) vs. Jorge Masvidal – welterweight title
- Alexander Volkonovski (C) vs. Max Holloway – featherweight title
- Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo – bantamweight title
- Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas – women’s strawweight
- Amanda Ribas vs. Paige van Zant – women’s flyweight
- Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka – light heavyweight
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov – welterweight
- Makwan Amirkhani vs. Danny Henry – featherweight
- Leonardo Santos vs. Roman Bogatov – lightweight
- Marcin Tybura vs. Maxim Grishin – heavyweight
- Raulian Paiva vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov – 129-pound catchweight
- Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo – 141-pound catchweight
- Davey Grant vs. Martin Day – bantamweight