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UFC announces four July events for 'Fight Island' in Abu Dhabi


Fight Island is officially real as the UFC announced the location of the venue and four July shows on Tuesday including a deep pay-per-view card that kicks everything off. 

The location is indeed the rumored Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, home of several UFC events in the past. The arrangement is part of a multi-year deal with the country's department of culture and tourism. 

July 11's UFC 251 will start the four-event month, followed by Fight Night events on Wednesday, July 15th; Saturday, July 18th; and Saturday, July 25th. The July PPV is typically held in Las Vegas as part of International Fight Week, but without fans to attend the show and events due to the pandemic, that wasn't in the cards for this year.

Per ESPN's Ariel Helwani, the show will air in the U.S. in its traditional time slots and the main card will start at 6 AM local time. That means prelim fighters will be competing in the middle of the night.

UFC didn't announce full cards for each show yet, but on ESPN's First Take, Dana White revealed the main card for UFC 251 and revealed that the Octagon will indeed be on the beach:

  • Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns: This is Usman's first fight since his successful title defense against Colby Covington last December while Burns rose to prominence with his recent dominant win over former champion Tyron Woodley. However, it was believed the streaking Leon Edwards would get the shot instead once efforts to pair Usman up with Jorge Masvidal fell through. However, Helwani said that while the UFC did reach out to Edwards, the UK travel lockdown was too much of an issue to overcome.
  • Featherweight Champion Alex Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway II: This is a rematch from last December when the Australian gave Holloway his first loss in the division since August 2013, a run of 14 wins and three successful title defenses.
  • Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight title: The 14-1 Yan has won all six of his UFC fights and faces the former featherweight champion Aldo who has yet to win a fight at bantamweight.
  • Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade 2: This is the second attempt to make this clash of former strawweight champions as the first was pushed back due to two of Namajunas' relatives coming down with COVID-19.
  • Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas: This is the final fight on the current contract for the oft-injured VanZant and the second attempt to make the fight as she fractured her right arm in March.

In the release for the shows, UFC said that "DCT Abu Dhabi will create a safety zone within the nearly ten square mile Yas Island that will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments.  This safety zone will only be open to UFC athletes and their coaches; UFC staff and other event personnel; and Yas Island employees who are necessary to ensure the operation of the facilities."