Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing travel bans, the world of sports was crippled as leagues began canceling events.
However, UFC stood out from the crowd as president Dana White began to plan to continue having the events despite the growing health concerns. The biggest obstacle he faced was getting foreign fighters into the US, which stimulated his mind to find a solution.
He came up with the idea of finding an island to host the fights. Despite being laughed at, he proved people wrong and made it happen.
After opening, only fighters and necessary staff and members were allowed into the island. They also undergo thorough testing to ensure the island remains free of Covid-19.
Here is everything you need to know about UFC Fight Island.
Fight Island is an Actual Island
Dana White searched for an island to rent or buy to make his dream a reality, but he didn’t quite manage to do that. He got Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, but on a site-fee basis formed under a five-year contract between UFC and Abu Dhabi.
While UFC didn’t get the entire island, they got a 10-kilometer diameter area that’s fully enclosed. The UFC territory consists of a hotel for the staff and fighters, an arena, training facilities, and a theme park. It also has other amenities to make the staff and fighters as comfortable as possible.
Travel and Covid-19 Testing
UFC Fight Island observes strict travel and testing guidelines to prevent any unfortunate health issues. Fighters and their teams have to travel and fly out of four hub cities to enter Abu Dhabi.
These cities include London, Moscow, Las Vegas, and Sao Paulo. UFC provides special accommodation for any fighter who cannot travel to these destinations. Fighters and their camp must submit a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours before flying to Abu Dhabi.
After arriving, they again get tested and are placed in quarantine. The fighters and their team remain in their rooms for 12 hours until the results are out. Another test is also conducted in that hotel room after the first test results have been received. An additional test is conducted before the fight and one more time before boarding their flight home.
Has Covid-19 Affected Scheduled Fights
Due to the strict rules and regulations, several cases have been caught early, averting some serious health complications on the island. At least two UFC bouts were changed due to positive COVID-19 test results.
The first case involved Alexander Romanov, who was pulled from his bout with Marcin Tybura. The second one involved Gilbert Burns, the headliner who had a match with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Both men tested positive after the first test before traveling. There are also about five other cases that affected fights, and like it’s the case with all positive tests, fights are either canceled or postponed depending on the situation.
In an event held in Las Vegas, 12 fights were postponed or canceled after fighters and cornermen tested positive for Covid-19. All these cases were caught before the player and their camp arrived on Fight Island.
How Do they Deal with Covid-19 Rule Breaches?
Those who risk the health of the people on the island face strict punishments like loss of pay and banishment.
In one of the most popular cases, Ottman Azaitar, a Moroccan fighter, was kicked out of the UFC Fight Island for breaching Covid-19 safety rules. One of his alleged actions was breaking his bubble during temporal quarantine and being released from the island. However, the decision was reversed, and Ottman and his brother were granted re-entry.
How Much Do UFC Fighters Make?
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is currently among the fastest-growing sports globally. The popularity of UFC and its fighters has skyrocketed to the likes of boxers in recent years. As such, fans and sports enthusiasts are curious to know how much the fighters make.
On average UFC fighters earned $160,022 in 2021, which is a significant increase from $146,673 in 2020. About 256 fighters, 42% of the total number, earned six figures in 2021.
This was a 4% increase from 2020, when 38% of these fighters made the average earnings.
Only 19% of the total number of fighters made less than the average income in the USA, which is $25 000. Fighters also enjoy extra bonuses, including pay per view, endorsements, and sponsorship. The lowest MMA fighters can earn between $10,000 and $30,000 per fight.
At some point, Conor McGregor ranked as the highest-paid UFC fighter when he earned $10,022,000, excluding bonuses. He was followed by Khabib Nurmagomedov, who earned $14,770,000, and Alistair Overeem – $10,204,500. The highest earners in the women’s category are Amanda Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko, and Cris Cyborg (Bellator).
The Biggest Fights Ever Held in UFC Fight Island
Since 2020, UFC Fight Island has held a variety of fights, some less popular than others. The first fight was UFC 251, which marked the return of MMA after the Covid-19 restrictions. The fight was between Khabib Nurmogomedov and Justin Gaethje. The former emerged as the winner. The fight was followed by a series of fights, including popular ones like:
- Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier
- Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway
- Ariane Lipski and Luana Carolina
- Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez
- Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee
- Joaquin Buckley and Impa Kasanganay
- Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung
What Are Post-COVID Plans?
Before the pandemic, UFC took fight tours to different countries in the world. After the lockdown, UFC Fight Island was established to ensure fighting fans enjoyed their favorite sports during the lockdown. It was also a way to ensure that UFC didn’t lose revenue. Now that the world is opening up, the need for the island is declining, allowing fights to be held in normal arenas.
However, the island isn’t to be abandoned as it is still scheduled for future UFC events. Dana White stated that UFC has plans to make Fight Island the world’s fight capital. He added that infrastructure is underway to host more major events as the world opens up.