But, fast forward two months, and he has achieved the unthinkable. White announced on Tuesday that UFC’s “Fight Island” will be Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
The island will host four events, including the pay-per-view event UFC 251, between July 11 and July 25.
To ensure it is a safe environment in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Culture and Tourism for Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) will seal off the nearly 10-square-mile (25 km) island, which will include an arena, hotel, training facilities, and dining establishments.
Entry to this “safety zone” will be permitted only to UFC athletes, their coaches, UFC staff and other event personnel.
Fighters will stay and train on the island, with White saying that fights will take place in the “Octagon out in the sand.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
“Abu Dhabi has been an amazing location to hold fights over the past ten years and it is the perfect place for these events.
“The infrastructure we are building will be such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the fighters that’s never been done before – from the arena, the private training facility, and the Octagon on the island – it’s going to be an experience that none of us will ever forget.”
The show goes on
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, White has been keen to host fights as soon as possible.
After being forced to postpone six scheduled events, UFC has returned to a consistent schedule since May 9, holding three events in Florida and two more in Las Vegas.
However, to accommodate his international fighters who have struggled to enter the US because of travel restrictions, White has been on the hunt for an international venue.
UFC and Abu Dhabi have had close ties for a long time, with Yas Island hosting its first event in 2010. Most recently, it hosted UFC 242 in September 2019, headlined by a lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier.
“We have worked closely with all government entities in Abu Dhabi to ensure that the staging of this historic event complies with the highest standards of safety for the athletes, coaches, and all UFC personnel as well as the safety of our community,” Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said.
“This year, Abu Dhabi has successfully proven its ability to handle all challenges and promote the well-being of its visitors and residents; and today, we are here to showcase the best that our capital has to offer, as we look forward to opening our doors once again to the world.”
UFC 251 will feature three championship bouts, including a headline fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns for the welterweight title.
It will also feature featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski’s rematch against Max Holloway and Petr Yan against Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC bantamweight title.