UFC 257 returns to “Fight Island” for the Connor McGregor/Daniel Poirier rematch on January 23 at the new Etihad Arena.
McGregor landed numerous heavy blows to Poirier’s head -- resulting in a knockout -- during the first round of their only previous matchup in 2014.
McGregor was just reaching the peak of his dominance when he defeated Poirier. He eventually went on a streak of nine wins in ten fights, avenging his only loss with a grueling five-round decision against the Welterweight Nate Diaz.
Recently, McGregor has been absent from the octagon, fighting in only two fights since 2016. He came out of retirement in 2018 and lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov via submission in the fourth round before retiring once again.
McGregor’s most recent fight came last January when he returned to the spotlight with an incredible first-round knockout of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.
Poirier has been more active (10-2-1) than McGregor since their previous encounter. The highlight of Pirorier’s career was the string of impressive wins (Pettis, Gaethje, Alvarez, Holloway) before losing to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
UFC 242 took place before Yas Island was dubbed “Fight Island” by Dana White, in his effort to continue the UFC schedule during COVID-19 shutdowns.
While Poirier has fighting experience on ‘Fight Island’, the arena will be new to both fighters. The highly anticipated Etihad Arena will make its debut in front of a limited number of fans, marking the first UFC event in front of a live crowd since March.
For McGregor, the opponent is familiar but the location is not. McGregor has never fought on Yas Island or in the entire United Arab Emirates, but his personality seems to be a perfect match for the affluent atmosphere of Yas Island.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, and due to its small population and immense control over the oil industry, is also one the richest cities in the world. In 2007, CNN money reported that the 420,000 citizens of Abu Dhabi are valued at $17 million per person.
The population has grown exponentially since that report (~1.5 million), but the wealthy aesthetic still remains.
The lavish lifestyle of Abu Dhabi is abundantly clear in the resort-esque mystique that Yas Island portrays. For example, Yas Island is home to the first Ferrari branded theme park: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. A premium adult ticket costs $1990 UAE (~$540 USD).
In an attempt to build the tourist appeal, the Yas Marina Circuit was built in 2009 and had its debut at the Formula 1 season finale. Since then, Yas Island has exploded with opulent travelers, with the most recent being UFC President Dana White.
After testing the waters for the last decade, it appears that the UFC’s infiltration of the UAE is here to stay.