Abu Dhabi set to revive global sports, tourism with Fight Island
The UFC Fight Island Abu Dhabi -- the first major event with international athletes flying to a destination -- marks the 'rebirth' of sports and tourism sectors. The Department of Culture and Tourism -- Abu Dhabi has got judicious plans to turn Fight Island into a grand success and later share the strategy with other countries to help them host similar events, a top official said.
Next month, the UFC 251 and three Fight Nights will be held at a secured zone at Yas Island. And Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Executive Director, Tourism and Marketing, DCT - Abu Dhabi, said the organisers set ball rolling in March.
"The UFC approached us to host this fight due to the high level of safety in Abu Dhabi and the high capabilities we demonstrated in hosting international events," Al Shaiba told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Sunday night.
"We are honoured that the UFC saw Abu Dhabi as one of the safest and the most ideal destinations for such a massive event. The decision to host this event was an easy one because we were confident at that time that we can do it."
A careful assessment involving government entities and the UFC followed to ensure all safety and security standards were met.
"It was tough in terms of adhering to restrictions and finding out what protocols to put in place to ensure the safety of travellers that would come from different destinations, and also the UAE staff, police, media, and everyone else into that safe zone."
The 25 square kilometre safe zone on Yas Island with all facilities will be open only to the UFC and essential local staff.
"We have worked closely with all relevant partners, including airways, regulatory authorities to ensure a safe transport of fighters into the UAE without interruptions. The safe zone will help us guarantee the highest level of safety possible for everyone involved. All staff and teams on the ground will be tested before the event."
Al Shaiba said the Fight Island demonstrates Abu Dhabi's capabilities to host world-class events with unrivalled standards amid challenges faced in current circumstances.
"Our aim is to position Abu Dhabi as a leader in supporting the rebirth of the sport and tourism sectors. We are taking all measures. We are setting plans, protocols, guidelines and everything. We have prepared all these things. So it's a matter of two weeks and we can kick it off," he said.
He said Fight Island signals Abu Dhabi's readiness for a 'new chapter' of tourism.
"We will expand and enhance our offering in various areas as we get ready to welcome visitors to the Capital once again," he said.
Abu Dhabi, he said, is determined to deliver a safe and secure event.
"Once we have achieved this, we aim to share our learning to help others around the world rebuild events in a Covid-19 world."
Al Shaiba confirmed there will be an octagon on the beach - a sight which has caught the fancy of fans world over.
"Everyone is waiting to see that happening. People will see an octagon on the beach. But actually the fights will not happen there. The event will be hosted in a safe zone and fights will take place at one of the existing arenas there. And we will have at least two fights featuring fighters in the top 10 ranks," he said.
Al Shaiba said the different entities - government, public and private sector - came together to make Fight Island a reality.
"When you come together to try to find a solution for a problem that is faced by the entire world, and you can do it in Abu Dhabi, is a great achievement. Everybody worked together to make it happen and now we have to see it happening."
Al Shaiba confirmed that there will be no spectators at the arena.
"I want all fans to turn on the screen and enjoy the fights and next time hopefully they will come and attend," he said.