Helwani: I don’t want to be the guy who says I told you so, but … I told you so. I never believed “Fight Island” was going to look like everyone thought it would. But I’ll tell you what, this has been some of the UFC 251 best promotional work in years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about Fight Island since the pandemic hit us here. It has truly captured the imagination of the world. So, kudos to them. I guess a lot of people never watched BodogFight back in the day. It actually held fights on a beach. It was cool and all, but nothing to get all crazy about. Anyhow, I bet some people will even tune in on July 11 because of the Fight Island name alone. The question is, will they be disappointed when they do so?
In the end, the real victory here is that the UFC figured out a way to hold events internationally so all the fighters outside of America can fight and get paid. I’m certain none of them cares if the fights are happening on a beach or not, anyway. This just opens up the matchup possibilities exponentially, and we see that with the July 11 card.
Murphy: Is anybody not a little disappointed Fight Island is only a marketing tool? UFC president Dana White told TMZ, “I have a private island that I’ve secured,” and he told Brett Okamoto, “We really are putting an Octagon on the beach.” The picture those interviews painted is far more “Street Fighter” than the site that hosts four cards over 14 days next month.
Technically, Yas Island is hardly more of an island than the United Kingdom. In fairness, “Fight Archipelago™” looks far less sexy on T-shirts. (“Fight Isthmus™” has potential.)
Billed as a rogue expedition into the combat sports unknown, this is actually a third trip to a city that has hosted UFC pay-per-views as recently as September. The sealed-off, 10-mile “safety zone” is the one attribute with a Fight Island feel — until you learn the safety zone also has a water park, Ferrari World and an Ikea.
Okamoto: I’m as guilty of over-fantasizing about Fight Island as anyone. I even wrote a (super awesome) song about it while I was stuck at home in March. A Caribbean island somewhere, with palm trees and waves crashing next to the Octagon? I pictured all of that. So, now it’s in Abu Dhabi, where the UFC just was in September. So, am I a little let down? A tad. But also … I don’t care. I just want to see the sport pick up and operate at pre-COVID-19 levels, and that’s what Fight Island accomplishes. It’s an opportunity for international athletes who might have had trouble getting into the United States. The spirit of Fight Island will live through Yas Island, even if it’s not exactly what we imagined.
Wagenheim: I’m a bit let down, honestly. Dana White sold us on Fight Island with scant details, but what we are getting is far less exotic than what a lot of us imagined — and even less so than what the UFC’s own T-shirt designers envisioned. Logistically, this is going to mean arduous travel for around 100 fighters and their teams. On the other hand, any concerns about sufficient medical care being available on some remote outpost are alleviated by the fights being on an island that’s part of Abu Dhabi, a city of 1.4 million people with several hospitals. And location aside, it’s good to see fighters from outside the United States having an opportunity to get back in the game.