Fight Island!

The myth is real. The dream is alive. Fight Island is official.

Jim Rome
June 10, 2020 - 9:13 am
Shakur Stevenson

USA Today

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The myth is real. The dream is alive. Fight Island is official. It’s not just a state of mind, it’s an actual place on the map. And here is Dana White to break it down

Yas Island, Abu Dhabi is now Fight Island. What started out as a crazy “what if,” is actually real.

When the idea first surfaced, everyone thought it was a joke. Be honest, you did too. We all did. It sounded too crazy to be real. Securing an island? Purely for people to fight on it? What would you call it? Hammer Fist Isle? Choke Hold Sand bar? Face Punch Key?

On the surface, the idea sounded completely surreal and completely insane, like something out of a Bond film. Or a cartoon. Or a video game. And securing this island and building it out during a global pandemic sounded bat-bleep crazy. Or in the very least, the kind of thing that gets talked about, but never actually finished. But it’s real.

It is Fight Island. An island where fighters go to fight….to…beat and choke the crap out of each other. 

And as Dana said on this show last week, the first card will be UFC 251 on July 11th. And that is one hell of a card featuring not one, not two, but three belts on the line.

Peter Yan will take on Jose Aldo for the bantamweight championship. Then Alex Volkanovski and Max Holloway will face each other again in a rematch for the featherweight title. And the headliner is Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns for the welterweight belt.

Is that card any good? It sure as hell is. That is an awesome card. It had to be.

There’s no way you could come launch something called Fight Island and have a couple of ham and eggers show up for a slap fight. You take that big a swing, it better be a damn good show. 

Fight Island has to be an event. You need stars. You need champions, you need belts, you need title fights; and that’s what we’re going to get:

UFC 251 will be the first of four cards held on Fight Island, but the real star of UFC 251 might not be the fighters, it might be the island itself. Because the island includes an arena, hotel, training facility, and places to eat. There will be a “safety zone” of ten square miles where the only people allowed in are fighters, coaches, UFC staff, and limited, essential personnel.

And as if Fight Island could not get any more Fight island, there will be a training octagon on the beach. What’s better than that?

And all of this isn’t just for show. It’s a necessity. Because the UFC needed to be able to host fights with international fighters. You can’t just hole up in Florida or Nevada and only have fights with US-based fighters. They needed to be able to expand the pool.

As Dana said, "We're literally just going to Yas Island right now to pull off these fights, because the hardest thing to do right now is to get people into the country from other parts of the world. And we are a true global business; we're the only ones that are pulling off live sports right now. And if I continue to do fights in the United States, I'm gonna burn out all my American talent. So now we've got Yas Island ready to go; it's set up."

All of you weeneis out there would’ve seen a global pandemic and restrictions on international travel as a reason to shut it down and take the summer off. But not the UFC. They’re pushing on. They’re taking over islands, creating 10 mile safety zones, and building octagons on the beach.

Not only is it set up, not only is it ready to go, not only will there be fights there starting in 31 days, but the UFC is selling merch off it. And I’m not talking about a hastily designed t-shirt that looks like you could buy it in the parking lot of an event. I’m talking about officially branded Fight Island gear, with a specific logo and color scheme.

And a broad range of styles.

There are 12 different Fight Island t-shirt designs in the UFC store. There are three different sweatshirts. Five different hats, including a bucket cap. There are branded water bottles, Frisbees, tote bags, face masks, mugs, beach towels, and board shorts.

I repeat – board shorts. They have Fight Island branded board shorts. And beer koozies. That is impressive as hell. Leaning into it and leaning in hard.

They aren’t just scrambling and throwing together a card in some random spot because they have get some fights together or keep their international fighters busy. They are building this out to be a full blown thing. They are capitalizing on it. Fight Island isn’t a joke, it’s a bleeping brand onto itself. 

Adapt or die. Pivot or get caught. That is what all great businesses do. You’re presented with a challenge and you figure out a way to make it an opportunity.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Major League Baseball can’t get a damn schedule together and UFC is off securing islands, building infrastructure, and developing fashion lines.

Scoreboard, Rob Manfred. Look up at it.  Dana White is getting bleep done, while Manfred and major league baseball just keep stepping in bleep.