Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

UFC

UFC 251: Dana White gets sweet surprise after arriving in Abu Dhabi for Fight Island

UFC president checks in to W Abu Dhabi on Yas Island ahead of Sunday morning's blockbuster UFC 251

If the UFC president likes candy, then what do you welcome him with upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi? Candy. A lot of it.

Dana White touched down in the capital early on Wednesday ahead of this month’s Fight Island, with the blockbuster UFC 251 kicking things off in a few days’ time.

However, White will have to wait to see in person how Yas Island has been transformed for the inaugural four-event series - Flash Forum, the octagon on Yas Beach - given the rigorous Covid-19 protocols put in place by organisers.

White took yet another Covid-19 test soon after he landed, and will now quarantine for 24 hours before he gets to have a real look around. Yet the American didn’t seem too downhearted, describing his room at the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island as “incredible”.

And what’s more, a pretty sizeable candy station has been built personally for him. Well, if Fight Island was your idea, then you’re most probably entitled to some perks.

Meanwhile, White gave some insight into how the revised headline bout at UFC 251 came about in a matter of days. After challenger Gilbert Burns tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday and thus withdrew from his welterweight title clash with champion Kamaru Usman, the promotion quickly booked Jorge Masvidal – giving an already stellar card another significant boost.

Speaking to TMZ before leaving for Abu Dhabi, White denied he had even considered anyone else for a replacement, saying: “We were always talking to Masvidal. There was never a situation during the negotiations, if you will, that we didn’t think that Masvidal was going to take the fight.

“It was brilliant of Masvidal to slide in after Gilbert Burns tested positive. Gilbert Burns is the No 1-ranked guy in the world. Great fight, it fell out. The fight the people want to see, the people’s fight, is this fight. It was absolutely brilliant of Masvidal to slide into this slot and take the fight.”

Asked if the “BMF” belt that Masvidal captured against Nate Diaz last November is up for grabs on Sunday, White added: “It is not on the line. Usman wants it to be on the line so bad; he will not stop texting me saying ‘I don’t understand why this belt isn’t on the line. This guy’s running around saying he’s the ‘BMF’ champ. I want to squash it all. He’s not going to win my title, and I’m going take his ‘BMF’ belt.’

“Believe me, Usman has not stopped terrorising me about this. That was like a one-and-done, the ‘BMF’ title.”

UFC president Dana White has been singing the praises of Abu Dhabi after UFC 251. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UFC president Dana White has been singing the praises of Abu Dhabi after UFC 251. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Updated: July 9, 2020 04:01 PM

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