Inside UFC Fight Island ahead of UFC 251 triple world-title card

When the UFC announced it would host bouts on ‘Fight Island’, fans’ imaginations across the world began to run wild.

Images were shared of an Octagon on the beach with palm trees recoiling at the violence playing out on their doorstep.

Fighters would pad from make-shift dressing rooms across the sand as the thunderclouds rolled in to observe the action.

But then reality struck.

We’d all been taken for fools and the UFC was in fact parking its sizable truck on the sands of Abu Dhabi in the Middle East.

The promotion is no stranger to Yas Island where they will hold four events over the next two weeks with Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on Dustin Poirier there last September.

There really is an Octagon on the beach
(Image: Zuffa LLC)

But there is still a mystical and romantic feel to the idea of fighters travelling from across the world to converge on one island to fight in an empty arena.

British middleweight John Phillips, who will compete on Wednesday, said: “It’s mad, it feels like I’m in Mortal Kombat or something like that! 

“If someone had said to me a couple of years ago you’re going to be fighting on ‘Fight Island’ I wouldn’t have believed them and even when I first heard about the rumours I wasn’t sure it would actually happen. 

“I don’t think it’s something that will properly set in while I’m there but it will definitely be one to look back on in the future and tell the grandkids about.”

As many as 630 UFC staff members, athletes, corners, and contractors have travelled to Abu Dhabi for the two-week extravaganza

“The infrastructure we’ve put in place on Fight Island has created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone,” says UFC president Dana White.

Three world titles are on the line tonight
(Image: Zuffa LLC)

“From the Octagon on the beach, the private training facility, designated UFC safety zone, first-class restaurants and the incredible arena, this is truly a destination that only could have been imagined.”

That’s right, there is an Octagon on the beach – but it’s only for show.

The fights will actually take place at Flash Forum, a venue which has previously played host to some of the world’s biggest singers.

The arena is part of an 11km stretch of Yas Island which will be lockdown, with borders and police checkpoints ensuring no members of the public can enter.

This ‘safe zone’ has seen all Abu Dhabi staff undertake a 14-day hotel room isolation and achieve three negative Covid-19 tests.

Furthermore, there are three medical facilities in the safe zone and all athletes and staff are subjected to five Covid-19 tests over the course of their stay.

Jorge Masvidal takes on Kamaru Usman
(Image: Zuffa/LLC via Getty Images)

They were also asked to quarantine for 48 hours while face coverings will be worn at all times and social distancing observed.

All that remains now is for the fighters to make their walks to the cage, with three title fights headlining the opening night in Abu Dhabi.

Jorge Masvidal has stepped in at six days’ notice to challenge welterweight champion Kamaru Usman after Gilbert Burns tested positive for coronavirus.

Earlier in the evening, Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski will clash for the featherweight title and Peter Yan will take on Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight strap.

The stage is set; now let battle commence.

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