While the much hyped “Fight Island” turned out to be just an arena event in Abu Dhabi instead, Dana White noted that they have more plans for big events in the UAE.
Events on Yas Island, the same place where they hosted previous UFC events in Abu Dhabi, will kick off with a stacked UFC 251 that has three title bouts, then followed by a few more “fight night” events after. According to Dana White, the title unification bout between lightweight champ Khabib Numagomedov and interim champ Justin Gaethje is planned for the UAE as well.
White didn’t reveal a date, but the bout has been reported to happen at UFC 253 this September.
“We owe them,” White told the assembled media, and confirmed that the Khabib vs Gaethje bout is the current frontrunner for a return to Abu Dhabi later in the year.
White was alluding to the latest 5-year partnership they struck with Abu Dhabi, which came just months after Endeavor bought back the UAE government’s (via Flash Entertainment) 10% ownership stake.
Nurmagomedov, who is a very popular figure in the UAE, also had his last title defense in Yas Island, when he submitted Dustin Poirier at UFC 242. If the championship fight pushes through, it would mark Gaethje’s first bout outside North America.