The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a slew of high-profile sporting events to either be postponed, or called off entirely this year.
Expectedly, when UFC President Dana White confirmed on June 9 that it was Abu Dhabi which would host the first-ever ‘Fight Island’ concept from July 11-26, sporting fans around the world took notice.
It was all eyes on not only UFC, but on the organisers, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), which undertook an extensive logistics exercise to create a ‘safe zone’ on Yas Island to safeguard all the participants and staff from the virus.
An 11-square-kilometre stretch of Yas Island has been completely sealed off from the public to create a safety bubble wherein only those directly involved with the event are permitted.
All Abu Dhabi-based event staff – approximately 1,678 of them – were mandated to undergo a 14-day hotel room quarantine on the island since June 19, and each had to undergo three Covid-19 tests during this period to ensure that they are free from the virus and do not pose a health threat to any of the UFC personnel that they will be working alongside.
Another team of 740 people were involved in transforming the Flash Forum for the fight – including the build of the world-famous Octagon which is housed in the air-conditioned arena.
Once the build-team had left the premises ahead of the fights, the Abu Dhabi Police sealed the area while a thorough sanitization exercise was carried out at the venue before the athletes and their teams landed in Abu Dhabi.
For the UFC fighters and personnel who flew into Abu Dhabi, they were required to undertake Covid-19 tests ahead of their flights, before take-off, landing, 48hrs after arrival and pre-fight too, in order to be allowed to enter the ‘safe zone’ in July.
Ahead of even the first fight, Abu Dhabi revealed that more than 10,000 tests were conducted within the safe zone, with every individual in the zone having to take a Covid-19 test every 72 hours to ensure they are free from infection.
For those now entering the Flash Forum where all the fights take place, ‘mist tunnels’ – 1.5m passageways built at the entry points to the venue – are used to sanitize everyone entering. Sanitization stations are also present in all communal area across the safe zone. The Octagon is sanitized between all fights and then undergoes a deep cleaning each evening too.
The concept of creating a ‘safe zone’ is one that Abu Dhabi says can be used for other sporting events too.
“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,” said Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of Tourism and Marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi.
“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,” added Ali Al Shaiba.
A total of four events including UFC 251 and three Fight Nights commenced from July 12. There are now two remaining Fight Nights that will take place on Sunday, July 19 from 1am (UAE time) and Sunday, July 26 from 1am (UAE time). You can catch them on Abu Dhabi Sports 2, or the headline fights live via the UFC Arabia app