UFC Fight Island wasn’t just a temporary fixture, as head president Dana White has declared Abu Dhabi ‘the new fight capitol of the world’ in a recent interview with John McAuley of The National.
White said Yas Island will replace Las Vegas as the new mecca for the ‘biggest and baddest fights’ in the world and revealed that Khabib Nurmagomedov will likely defend his lightweight title against newly-crowned interim champ Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi later this year.
“The shows that we bring here, this is the only international destination for fights,” White said. “So all the biggest and the baddest fights coming up that we have are going to be here.
“If you look at our roster of champions, they’re from all over the world. So the biggest, baddest fights over the next God knows how long are going to be here in Abu Dhabi. That’s why I’m saying Abu Dhabi is going to be looked at as the new fight capital of the world. It used to be Las Vegas. It definitely isn’t Las Vegas right now.”
“Khabib will be the next. We’re talking about [middleweight champion] Israel Adesanya versus Paulo Costa, that fight happening. [Women’s strawweight champion] Weili Zhang versus Rose Namajunas is a possibility. All the massive, big fights with literally the champion versus the No 1 contender are all looking like Fight Island Abu Dhabi.”
White went on to label Fight Island his ‘Thrilla in Manila’, a reference to the iconic boxing trilogy between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Philippines in 1975.
“[Fight Island] was our Thrilla in Manila, Rumble in the Jungle. Where the place that the fight was was as big or bigger of a star as everybody that was fighting on the card. So we made history here,” White said.
“That octagon on the beach should sit there for ever; that should be something that fight fans come and see for ever. We’re talking about doing International Fight Week here now on Fight Island and having all these different events here the week of the fight. And we’re thinking about all these different things now that we can do, that would be a yearly event.
“I know for a fact that I’ve never done anything harder than this. I don’t know if there’ll ever be anything that we’ve accomplished in almost 20 years of doing this that was bigger than what we’ve done here.”
UFC Fight Island launched earlier this month and is set to conclude its four-event series on Saturday, July 26, with UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till.