The UFC returns to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for the second time this year. Just recently, we had the chance to interview Mr. Saeed Al Saeed, Destination Marketing Director at DCT Abu Dhabi.
Here’s everything you need to know including testing protocols and travel arrangements.
Tell us more about the UFC Fight Island, what makes it so special?
UFC Fight Island™ in July was an undisputed success from start to finish. We are incredibly proud of what we achieved, safely and successfully navigating from concept creation to delivery of a world-class event in just two months. The current situation has challenged everyone to innovate and we embraced that challenge with the implementation of a state-of-the-art UFC Fight Island™ safe zone across all event-related areas of Yas Island.
When the rest of the world stopped, we moved forward and demonstrated Abu Dhabi’s capabilities to host world-class events in a safe and secure environment. The UFC Fight Island™ safe zone has now become a global benchmark for global event ‘bubbles’ as we continue to welcome UFC fighters from across the world.
UFC Fight Island™ is special because it highlights Abu Dhabi as a world-class destination for global sporting events and sports tourism and reinforces Abu Dhabi’s preparedness to welcome visitors. Its return just three months later, with UFC once again choosing Abu Dhabi to host its international events, reflects the global confidence in the emirate to deliver events with the highest standards globally.
How do you ensure maximum safety at the island during the pandemic? Can you expand on the island’s ‘safe zone’?
As part of stringent public health and safety protocols, the safe zone is a 6km² area of Yas Island has been closed off to incorporate an arena, hotels, training facilities, Yas Beach, as well as dining and entertainment establishments. The safe zone is only accessible to UFC fighters and coaches, UFC staff, event personnel and employees necessary to ensure the operational continuity of Yas Island facilities.
The safe zone ensures the health and safety of everyone within, while also safeguarding the wellbeing of the emirate’s residents and visitors. Stringent health and safety measures are in place inside the safe zone, with a period of quarantine and negative COVID-19 tests required before anyone can enter. Once inside, personnel are required to wear face masks at all times, except for fighters in the Octagon during bouts. Social distancing is enforced at all times, with indicative posters for a distance of two metres within venues and facilities.
UFC athletes, coaches, personnel and international media are flown into Abu Dhabi on a restricted number of chartered and commercial flights from international destinations. Before leaving their destination, every individual is required to return a negative COVID-19 test result before they can board the aircraft. Upon landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport, all passengers are transited to pre-allocated hotels on Yas Island where they will be tested again before undertaking a 48-hour quarantine in their rooms. All individuals will then undergo a third test during quarantine. Following a negative result, all international visitors will be permitted entry into UFC Fight IslandTM safe zone, its venues and facilities.
Following the success of the inaugural UFC Fight IslandTM, the safe zone structure has become a global benchmark for major international event ‘bubbles’ as we continue to welcome UFC fighters from around the world.
How are you preparing the staff to handle this one-of-a-kind event?
To ensure the health and safety of all parties in this exciting event, all UAE-based event personnel undertook a precautionary quarantine for 14 days on Yas Island prior to Return to Fight Island events. All individuals were tested in their hotels upon check-in, before adhering to a second and third round of COVID-19 testing during quarantine. Only after receiving negative results from those tests were individuals allowed to leave their rooms and move around the safe zone, while wearing a mask at all times and adhering to social distancing rules.
As we focus on delivering exhilarating events, all event personnel inside the safe zone will be tested every six days throughout the duration of the Return to Fight Island™ to ensure the health and safety of all parties.
What can travellers expect when going to the UFC Fight island?
In line with Abu Dhabi’s rapid and organised response to COVID-19, which is recognised as being amongst the world’s best, UFC Fight Island™ is only accessible to UFC athletes and their coaches, UFC staff and other event personnel, as well as Yas Island employees necessary to ensure the operational continuity of the Yas Island facilities. To protect the health and safety of our visitors and residents, the event is being held behind closed doors.
At the moment, anyone entering Abu Dhabi is required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result prior to leaving their destination and present it at the emirate’s borders. Upon arrival, passengers are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period. Abu Dhabi’s response to COVID-19 includes city-wide sanitisation programmes and one of the world’s highest testing per capita ratios, which has enabled us to control the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The measures for visitors were implemented with the aim of guaranteeing the safety of our destination.
On another note, what does ‘Return to Fight Island’ mean to the tourism sector in the UAE?
Return to Fight Island provides us with the opportunity to showcase Abu Dhabi’s incredible capabilities across tourism, sport, entertainment, and business events. The event demonstrates Abu Dhabi’s readiness to welcome visitors back to the emirate once again, with the highest standards of safety in place.
In preparation for this return, DCT Abu Dhabi led the development of the ‘Go Safe Certification’, which enforces global safety and hygiene standards across the emirate’s hotels, attractions, malls, hospitality facilities and public venues, and supports the emirate’s wider efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, which include widespread testing, city-wide sanitation, social distancing, and enhanced healthcare services.
Where can our followers watch the events happening soon at the UFC Fight Island?
Return to Fight Island will be broadcast across MENA on UFC Arabia, the UFC’s first Arabic-language subscription service in the region, which is available through Apple Store, Google Play and via web browsers and smart TVs.
Are you bringing in more global sporting events in the future?
The Indian Premier League is currently taking place across three emirates, including Abu Dhabi and we are also preparing for the return of Formula 1™ in December and the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. The success of our UFC Fight Island bubble has piqued interest from other sporting and event organisers, highlighting the global confidence in our ability to offer unique events, leisure and cultural experiences in a safe and secure environment. Abu Dhabi is established as a destination for global sporting events and we continue to study proposals from sporting organisations. Health and wellbeing remain our top priority and we must ensure that any event we hold does not compromise the safety of the emirate, its residents and visitors.