Leaving 2020 in the past, the UFC will most likely kick off the new year with events being held at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
2020 was a very strong year for the UFC not in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in many ways because of it. The UFC was the first American professional sport league to return to action after everything was shut down in March. The promotion put on UFC 249 on May 9 was the first event in nearly two months.
UFC 249 will be remembered not only for being the first event back, but also for its big lineup of top notch fights. This included the Lightweight interim championship bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje and a Bantamweight title bout between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz.
This was one of the deepest Pay-Per-Views of the entire year, so it was significant on a number of levels.
The other big initiative the UFC took in 2020 was the Fight Island saga. UFC president Dana White wanted a private island so international athletes could compete. At the time, the United States would not allow travel from other nations.
Instead of buying a private island with no infrastructure, the UFC signed a deal with Abu Dhabi to host Fight Island on Yas Island. The deal is for five years and guarantees at least one Pay-Per-View come to Abu Dhabi every year. With the installment of Fight Island, far more than that has comewith even more on the horizon.
In an interview with Barstool Sports’ Robbie Fox, White said that he has big plans for Fight Island in the new year, including bringing back fans.
“I hope to bring fans back…” White said. “I’m looking to make it International Fight Week. The new Etihad Arena will be open, and that thing was designed with us in mind. Concerts, pool parties, all kinds of cool stuff. That’s what I’m shooting for.”
Although there is no telling if they can regain their full fanbase in just under a month, this confirms that the UFC does have plans to make Fight Island a big part of 2021’s start.
This also means that UFC 257, the first PPV of the year, will probably be a Fight Island bout. This fight is set to be headlined by former UFC two division champion and No. 5 contender Conor McGregor and former Lightweight interim champion Dustin Poirier, who is ranked No. 2 in the division. This is a highly-anticipated rematch that will surely get the year started off in the right direction.
A week before UFC 257, there will be a Fight Night headlined by Featherweights No. 1 Max Holloway and No. 6 Calvin Kattar. Although nothing is official, it would make sense if the UFC kicks off the year with this event as well.
Whether the fights take place on an island in the middle east or in Las Vegas, there will be some high-level fights kicking off the new year, all on ESPN+ and PPV.