Dana White Says “All The Big Fights Are Going To Be In Abu Dhabi”

08 September 2020
UFC, Dana White, Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov
The Capital's Fight Island will continue to host big UFC names

UFC president Dana White says that Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island will be the international venue for all of the UFC’s big fights, going forward.

After signing a five-year deal with the capital’s Department of Culture and Tourism, White has doubled down on his promise and said “all the big fights are going to be in Abu Dhabi.”

This time last year the UFC was in town hosting the man who humbled Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Dustin Poirier. The event and drew a huge crowd to watch Nurmagomedov retain his lightweight title.

“UFC 242 put Abu Dhabi firmly on the map. Now, it is the global fight capital of the world,” said White.

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Just six months later, on the eve of his hugely anticipated title fight with Tony Ferguson, the world and the UFC ground to a halt as the coronavirus began to shut everything down. Despite the Olympics being postponed and the European football championships being called off the UFC refused to close down, and for the longest time, continued to try and find a venue willing to host their fights.

After months of speculation, it was announced that the UFC would take place in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, on what was dubbed ‘Fight Island.’

A series of successful fights across the summer, under extradordinary circumstances, has cemented Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a place for great fights.

“It used to be Las Vegas, now Abu Dhabi really is the international fight capital. We have world champions from all around the world so, from that sense too, all the big fights are going to be in Abu Dhabi.”

Now speculation turns to who these 'big fights' might feature. Despite Conor McGregor announcing his retirement, we shouldn't rule out a comeback, and a match up with Nurmagomedov, in Abu Dhabi, would be huge draw. The same is true of the also currently retired Jon Jones, who may move up a division to heavyweight and fight champion Stipe Miocic or human juggernaut Brock Lesnar.

On May 10, after Khabib pulled out of the fight after being stranded in Russian, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson stepped into the Octagon, with Gaethje upsetting the apple cart and beating Ferguson definitively.

It was a match indicative of the kind that was to come over the summer: hastily arranged opponents, taking place in an empty arena, the sound of the blows really landing unfamiliar to those casual UFC fans, used to watching with the sound of a roaring crowd, urging the fighters on.

People worried about the future of the sport. After all, things become a little more sinister without the crowd noise to smooth the edges. What you’re left with is the inescapable feeling that you’re watching two people really hurt each other. Such is the sterilizing effect of TV and huge crowds.

Still, the UFC pressed on and the fights have been successful, generating the hype and controversy we expect, including Jorge Masvidal taking a last-minute fight with Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in July.

With UFC on the rise in the UAE, a number of fighters are now based in Dubai, with three recently scoring victories in the UFC.