A Conor McGregor fight without an audience would be a strange sight, one that UFC President Dana White wants to avoid.
“The Notorious” is set to return to action in January when he fights Dustin Poirier in the lightweight main event of UFC 257 on Jan. 23 at a location still to be announced. The UFC is currently closing out its slate of 2020 events at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
Following Friday’s weigh-ins for UFC 256, White spoke to the media and explained his hopes of having a fight week on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi with fans in attendance.
“We’re not sure yet, but that’s a goal,” White said. “What I want to do is go back to Fight Island, do a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday with the last Saturday being Conor and do like an International Fight Week. You guys were there. Pool parties, there’s so much cool stuff that you can do in Abu Dhabi and that’s what we’re hoping to pull off. I don’t know if we can, but that’s the hope.”
Typically, International Fight Week takes place in the first week of July, though that wasn’t an option this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in March. The annual event is meant to give fans the opportunity to interact with fighters, attend parties, and usually see at least two major events in the span of seven days.
White would like to see a one-week, triple-header on Fight Island and he says the powers-that-be were receptive to the idea of holding a special fight week there. However, White sees plenty of complications in bringing fans over to to Abu Dhabi where the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled differently than it has been in the United States.
“They got their thing under control over there,” White said. “They’re light years ahead of the rest of the world, they got their stuff dialed in. The problem is as COVID’s starting to spread right now do you want to fly 20,000 people in from other countries outside of the bubble to party and go to an event? That’s the big question right now.”
Factors that White and the UFC would have to consider include how fans would quarantine as well as how much COVID-19 pre-testing and testing would be required for the event to be considered safe.
When it comes to bringing fans back to events in the U.S., White is skeptical as to how soon that could happen. He also reiterated that he has no intention of booking any North American venues until it’s possible to sell them out again. As it stands, he expects crowds at international shows first.
“I do. I think so,” White said. “We could do them right now [in the U.S.] if we didn’t have to quarantine for two weeks. We can’t go do an event somewhere, sell it out, and then have to quarantine everybody for two weeks. That we can’t do. We have fights every Saturday normally, it would be very hard to do especially with our staff and officials, the list goes on and on.”