Though the promotion’s plans remain ever-tentative in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, it doesn’t sound as though a return to “Fight Island” will happen until summer. As of now, events through March — and likely beyond — are expected to be held at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
“If I had to map it out in my head, we’d come back in June or July,” Dana White said at the UFC 257 post-fight press conference on Saturday night. “Who knows? While we were here there was a new inauguration and we’ll see what happens.
“Traveling in America I think is gonna be another massive challenge for us this year.”
One positive from the series of events at Etihad Arena this past week was the presence of fans in the 18,000-seat venue, which coincided with Conor McGregor’s return to action. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, only about 2,000 people were allowed to attend each card. Still, it made a difference in the atmosphere. The UFC hadn’t had fans in attendance since UFC 248 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 8, 2020.
Could the promotion have McGregor, still its top draw despite his recent loss, compete at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas at an empty arena? It’s possible, but White is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding plans for U.S. events.
New U.S. President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order that requires international travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test and to self-quarantine upon arrival. If professional sports are not granted some type of exemption, that could cause some complications for upcoming cards.
“Coming into this thing, these fans here were great. It’s cool to have fans,” White said. “We could do Conor at the Apex. I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I don’t know what this year is gonna hold for any of this stuff with what’s going on in the United States.”
“Sounds like things are tightening up over there and talking about a 14-day quarantine like Canada. If that happens, that’s gonna be a problem.”
Of course, “Fight Island” was initially set up to get international athletes who couldn’t otherwise travel to the U.S. on UFC cards. It could return to being a hub like that in the near future.
“This situation is never going to be perfect, but Abu Dhabi is as close to perfect, as you can get,” White said. “I might have to move here this year. Yeah. It’s as close to perfect as you can get. The way that these guys do everything, everything in this country is done to the best of everybody’s ability. That’s incredible.”