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Go Inside UFC’s Fight Island Safety Zone

UFC calls it Fight Island. A 4 square mile area on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi has been transformed into a safety zone for four UFC events, running July 11 through July 25, encompassing a handful of hotels, variety of restaurants, training facilities, the arena and even beaches and a golf course. 

The entire safety zone will house 2,500 people in full peak and remain cordoned off from the rest of the nearly 10 square mile island with security fencing and checkpoints, all with a unique set of protocols required to both enter the island’s UFC-only zone and once within the space. 

Everything inside Fight Island’s safety zone was a previously normally operating amenity, but now employees and UFC-related individual will have hotels, restaurants and amenities exclusive to to them within the zone. “They will have plenty of options for dining, a public beach they can use with water activities, they can go to a golf course and other areas that will be dedicated only to Fight Island,” says HE Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. 

“We came up with the idea of having fights on ‘Fight Island’ because we needed a destination to hold international events during the global pandemic,” says Dana White, UFC president. “Abu Dhabi has been an amazing location to hold fights over the past 10 years and it is the perfect place for these events.” White calls the experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity unlike anything ever done before and something “that none of us will ever forget.” 

Yas Island, known as an entertainment destination for Abu Dhabi complete with theme parks and water parks, set aside the Fight Island area and by mid-June for the first wave of the 1,700 people now there that went into a 14-day quarantine. The first group of employees have gone through three difference Covid-19 tests, with a third straight negative test allowing them to move freely within the safety zone. 

Fight Island locked down on July 2 as the last day for employees to enter. Athletes and UFC delegates have a slightly different process that starts on July 4 with a test in one of the four departure locations and self-isolation for 48 hours prior to departure. Then, upon arrival in the VIP terminal at the Abu Dhabi airport they undergo a second test. After a 48-hour isolation in an athlete hotel, a third test will happen before the athletes can start trainings. 

Within the safety zone, Shaiba says there will still be ample precautions, such as masks, social distancing and protocols clearly understood through a distributed guide.

While the amenities were turn-key ready for UFC, there will be some slight modifications to the arena and some of the hotel floors will receive upgrades so that every floor that athletes stay on have a small gym for training. The half-dozen hotels within the safety zone will hold differing groups, from operations, security, senior management, stakeholders, athletes and doctors. The security fencing was the only item Abu Dhabi needed to build from scratch. 

All bouts will take place at Flash Forum, which did install 5-foot-wide mist tunnel entries into the venue to sanitize everyone entering the venue. 

Part of the partnership with the UFC was to help promote Abu Dhabi tourism. Shaiba says that already they have created a series of protocols that include all employees at hotels, restaurants and shopping centers requiring testing for Covid-19 every two weeks. “Whenever you go into a restaurant or shopping mall or hotel in Abu Dhabi, whoever is there has tested negative,” he says. “This is a big thing to send a message to everyone in the world we are a safe place for travelers.” 

Abu Dhabi also believes it can run a Fight Island-style of event, whether for UFC or a different international-level entity, again if needed. “The challenge in the beginning was to make sure we can secure that zone,” Shaiba says. “We are confident that if there is a need to have more fights on this island, it is ready and operations can go smoothly. If UFC decides to have more fights, we are ready.”

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