The UFC will have live fans in the stands for their first cards of 2021. After shutting out fans since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion will open their doors to a limited number of fans on Fight Island.
The UFC has an upcoming three-card run on Fight Island which concludes with UFC 257 headlined by Conor McGregor (22-4). MMA Junkie was the first to report the news that fans are officially back for the promotion.
The UFC had been hosting their events at the Flash Forum on Fight Island. However, with the addition of fans, the promotion will be hosting their next three events at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
At this point, there is no word on how many fans will be allowed in attendance. This news does break away from the initial statements from Dana White. White previously said he wouldn’t host events with partial crowds.
White has been very firm that it would be all or nothing for the UFC. Either they would sell out an event or there would be no fans at all. However, he did say that he was hoping to have an International Fight Week with fans for the upcoming Fight Island Trip.
The UFC welcomes back fans
As of now, there is no information on if the promotion will try to host International Fight Week for the UFC’s first week back. It appears they are just opening up their doors to allow a limited number of fans to enjoy the live action.
I do find this all a little convenient when it comes to Conor McGregor. One of the biggest gripes with the promotion’s handling of Conor McGregor last year had to do with live gates.
The UFC held McGregor out waiting for fans to be able to return. However, McGregor just wanted to compete and his frustration led to his brief retirement. As the biggest star in the sport, McGregor pulls in a hefty live gate whenever he fights and the UFC didn’t want to lose that revenue.
Obviously this decision isn’t completely tied to McGregor seeing as they are not selling the arena out. I just find it a little convenient that he will headline the first PPV that will have fans in the stands. It’s very fitting for the promotion.
On a more important note, this is a great thing for the UFC. It’s a very positive step in the right direction to have at least some sort of fan interaction for fights. While the fighters have delivered over the last year, you do miss the energy that a live crowd brings.
While it’s on a very small scale, it will be nice to hear fans in the crowd again for this run on Fight Island. I wouldn’t be shocked if the UFC’s first full capacity event in 2021 also comes at Fight Island.