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Abu Dhabi, July 7, 2020
International sport took a step closer to a return to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this week as the "safe zone" for UFC Fight Island has now been secured, with an 11 km stretch of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island locked off to the public as a safety precaution for international guests and the Abu Dhabi community.
The "safe zone" on Yas Island will be in place for the entirety of UFC Fight Island, which will run from July 11-26, and will house more than 2,500 people for four events including one Pay Per View - UFC 251 - and three ESPN Fight Nights.
Organised and implemented by the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), Abu Dhabi to navigate the new global health and safety landscape brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the "safe zone" represents an innovative approach to ensuring the safe return of UFC to Abu Dhabi, and also paves the way for other high-profile events heading for UAE shores later in the year.
The safety measures and processes in place for UFC Fight Island are extensive: all Abu Dhabi-based event staff have been in 14-day hotel room quarantine since June 19 and have all had three COVID-19 tests during this period. While they have been in isolation, a 740-strong crew has been constructing the venue and competition area, which is now complete. The set-up crew has now left the zone, and the area was cordoned off by Abu Dhabi Police and a full sanitisation of the zone is now underway, ready for staff to enter, a press release from UFC Fight Island said.
These measures were implemented to ensure the health and safety of all individuals within the safety zone, as all those quarantining within the area will be required to receive three negative tests in order to move around the area. Only UFC fighters and personnel, who will undertake COVID-19 tests on take-off, landing, 48 hours after arrival and pre-fight, will be permitted to enter the "safe zone" in July.
All bouts will take place at Flash Forum, a multi-purpose indoor venue which has been adapted to suit UFC’s needs, whilst adhering to COVID-19 precautionary measures. Innovative "mist tunnels" -- 1.5m passageways on entry to the venue -- have been added to sanitise everyone entering, with the mist killing 99% of surface bacteria. Sanitisation stations are also included in every room, in every venue and communal areas have been removed. There will also be no crowd and masks will be compulsory at all times.
The famous Octagon also has its own safety measures. The Octagon, which is housed in a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned indoor arena within the zone, will be sanitised between all fights and be subjected to deep cleaning each evening. Another Octagon has also been constructed at Yas Beach for the fighters’ enjoyment, and this will also undergo the same sanitisation measures, the release said.
“Over the past two weeks, we’ve been very busy building a safe and secure zone to bring UFC back to Abu Dhabi and, in turn, kick-start international sport and entertainment events again," said Ali Al Shaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi. "The area of the ‘safe zone’ aims to ensure we can provide a secure environment to host elite sport, but also protect our wider Abu Dhabi community.
"This event is important to us for many reasons as it allows us to begin the process of bringing back sports and tourism to Abu Dhabi. It signals our readiness to once again host international events and provides us with a learning opportunity to improve and adapt, and efficiently prepare for the scheduled events ahead of us this year.
“I would like to also extend my gratitude to the 1,678 Abu Dhabi event staff who have spent 14 days in hotel room isolation as part of our safety protocol. Their passion and commitment to this event represents our eagerness as a community to bring our much-loved events and tourists back to Abu Dhabi, safely and securely," he added.
UFC will hold four events on Yas Island, including one Pay Per View - UFC 251 - and three Fight Nights. The schedule begins with UFC 251 at 2am local time (18:00 ET) on Sunday, July 12, and will be followed with successive ESPN Fight Night events to be held on Thursday, July 16 from 3am local time (19:00 ET); Sunday, July 19 from 1am local time (17:00 ET); and Sunday, July 26 from 1am local time (17:00 ET).
UFC events are broadcast in 175 countries in 40 different languages and reach approximately one billion TV households. In the UAE and throughout the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, UFC Fight Island events will be broadcast on UFC Arabia, UFC’s first Arabic-language subscription service in the region. UFC Arabia can be downloaded through Apple Store and Google Play and is available on web, smart phone, tablets and Smart TVs, the release added.
UFC is the world’s premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization, with more than 318 million fans and 102 million social media followers. The organization produces more than 40 live events annually in some of the most prestigious arenas around the world, while broadcasting to nearly one billion TV households across more than 175 countries. UFC’s athlete roster features the world’s best MMA athletes, representing more than 65 countries.
UFC was acquired in 2016 by global entertainment, sports and content company Endeavor and strategic investors Silver Lake Partners and KKR. UFC is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.