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UFC 251: ‘Beautiful, surreal, insane’ – what’s Fight Island really like?

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UFC 251: ‘Beautiful, surreal, insane’ – what’s Fight Island really like?

There really is an octagon on the sand as UFC heads to the Middle East for Fight Island”I had Enter The Dragon on video. I used to think ‘oh yeah, look at them, as if’. And now it’s happening.”And not only is it happening, but Liverpool’s Molly McCann is among those who will be fighting…

UFC 251: ‘Beautiful, surreal, insane’ – what’s Fight Island really like?
Octagon on the sand at UFC's Fight Island
There really is an octagon on the sand as UFC heads to the Middle East for Battle Island

” I had Enter The Dragon on video. I used to believe ‘oh yeah, look at them, as if’. And now it’s occurring.”

And not only is it taking place, but Liverpool’s Molly McCann is amongst those who will be battling at UFC’s Battle Island.

Bruce Lee’s 1973 film saw the world’s greatest fighters gather on a personal island for a martial arts competition, prior to dominating an “wicked island empire”.

Now McCann and a star-studded list of UFC fighters are flying to the United Arab Emirates for 4 events in between 11 and 25 July, starting with Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal headlining UFC 251.

‘ He’s no place near as good as marketed’ – Usman and Masvidal preview UFC 251

What is Battle Island?

UFC president Dana White developed the concept in a bid to continue hosting combined martial arts events throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

McCann was because of battle at UFC London on 21 March – however that ended up being the first UFC event to be cancelled – and broadcasters informed White to “stand down” from letting UFC 249 go on 18 April.

While attempting to arrange events behind closed doors in the United States, White announced a strategy to stage battles on an island for worldwide fighters limited from taking a trip to the United States.

So UFC began holding events with no fans in Jacksonville and Las Vegas, prior to White verified on 9 June that Fight Island would happen on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

It is far from the desert island UFC fans at first envisaged; fighters won’t be showing up by boat. Instead they’re flying to a luxury leisure resort which has already staged three UFC occasions in 2010, 2014 and UFC 242 last September.

Spanning a location of 9.6 square miles, Yas Island has hosted Solution 1’s Abu Grand Prix considering that 2009; staged music performances by the likes of Beyonce, Madonna and the Rolling Stones; has several amusement park including Ferrari World, which boasts the world’s fastest rollercoaster; plus a mall, a golf course, a marina and a beach.

As White guaranteed, there truly is an “octagon on the sand”, but (spoiler alert) the battles will not occur there.

How will it work?

About 630 UFC employee, athletes, corners and specialists are flying to eliminate Island, with all being checked for coronavirus before they take a trip and a number of times in Abu Dhabi. In total, about 3,300 tests are anticipated.

From the airport, it’s a five-mile drive to Yas Island and a ‘Safe Zone’ which visitors can not leave, with checkpoints to prevent the public getting in. The zone consists of the golf course, beach, hotels and dining establishments, plus three medical facilities with 17 personnel.

Map of Safe Zone for UFC's Fight Island
The Safe Zone (in green) consists of part of the circuit for Formula 1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Over 2,500 UFC workers and Yas Island employees will remain within the zone, with all local staff having been in quarantine for 14 days and had three unfavorable tests.

When quarantining before flying from London, McCann had to remain alone in her hotel room but fighters can have a coach with them at Battle Island so they can do some training in their space. After that, they can access a personal training center with meals supplied by UFC’s nutrition partner.

Come battle night, it’s a brief walk from the hotel to the location – the Flash Forum, a much smaller place than the Arena, which staged UFC 242.

At the entrance there are ‘mist tunnels’, which eliminate 99%of surface bacteria, and all common locations have been eliminated. The Forum is also air-conditioned, with the temperature set to peak at 43 C this weekend.

Surreal, ghost town, next level – what they stated

Three fighters are putting an unbeaten UFC record on the line at UFC251 Welterweight champion Usman deals with BMF title-holder Masvidal, Petr Yan handles veteran Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt and featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski has a rematch with Max Holloway.

Brazilian Aldo, 33, has been at Yas Island since early in the week and stated: “It’s gorgeous. Coming here and seeing the hotel and whatever they’ve built, it’s quite outrageous. This entire infrastructure is quite surreal.”

The primary card functions another rematch as Jessica Andrade deals with fellow previous strawweight champion Rose Namajunas.

American Namajunas, 28, stated: “There’s definitely a couple of weird little things. It resembles a ghost town, and doesn’t truly seem like an island. We’ve just remained in the hotel space, however so far it’s been a truly cool, tranquil battle week.”

McCann, 30, flew from London on Wednesday, in preparedness for her flyweight battle with Brazil’s Talia Santos on 16 July.

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Speaking from her hotel space in London, McCann said: “The arena looks next level; the cage on the beach is simply for show. But I have actually asked if I can train in it. I informed my coach: ‘We’re getting our electronic cameras and we’re hitting the pads in there!’ It’s simply correct traditional, like Go into The Dragon.

” There’s a couple of curveballs so it’s getting utilized to handling them and not letting it affect your mindset. If you’re a superstitious fighter you’re packed since nothing resembles how you ‘d generally have it.”

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