The UFC Fight Island—located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates—has been described as the safest environment the company has provided its fighters during the coronavirus pandemic by UFC COO Lawrence Epstein.
According to ESPN's Marc Raimondi, Epstein commented on how closely things will be monitored on Fight Island: "It's going to be the tightest bubble that you could sort of ever produce. It's a pretty unique situation on an island with incredible controls over who's coming in and not letting people come back in once they've left."
Raimondi added that Fight Island will include a "safe zone," which will only be available to those taking part in the four UFC events being held on the island in July. Those in the safe zone will be tested for COVID-19 multiple times and "generally" won't be allowed to come and go as they please.
The first Fight Island event is Saturday's UFC 251, and it will be headlined by welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal.
Usman was originally scheduled to face Gilbert Burns, but Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was subsequently replaced by Masvidal on short notice.
Per Raimondi, those on Fight Island for UFC events could be tested up to five times for COVID-19. The UFC's first three shows during the pandemic were held in Jacksonville in May, and fighters were only tested once each for those cards upon arriving in Florida.
Upon arriving at Fight Island, individuals will be tested for COVID-19 and then placed in quarantine for up to 48 hours until the results return. Strict protocols must be followed on the island as well, including wearing a mask and social distancing.
One source told Raimondi: "I poke holes in protocols and processes for a living. They did this one good. Home run."
Epstein noted the UFC is attempting to improve on its protocols with each passing show: "I think we've done a great job on the path. I think our system and protocols and education are working. But additional measures being taken to make sure this is even safer, we're always open to getting better. And that's what we're trying to do for every single event."
UFC 251 is the first scheduled event on Fight Island, and it will be followed by three additional shows in the coming weeks. UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Ige on July 15, UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2 on July 18 and UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Till on July 25 are all planned as well.
Once the string of events on Fight Island is over, UFC will return to the United States for nine events in August, all of which are scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.
Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.