Fans will be in attendance when the UFC returns to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi for a three-event stint starting next week.
And early Friday in the U.S., tickets already were gone not long after they went on sale for UFC 257 on Jan. 23. at Etihad Arena on Yas Island. That event features a rematch between former lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor and former interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier.
Tickets that started at $795 Arab Emirates Dirham (about $216 USD) and went all the way up to $4,995 AED ($1,360 USD) all show as sold out at Etihad Arena’s official website.
The website also lists an abundance of health and safety rules that must be adhered to by fans, and though a total number of tickets available was not announced, the site says “seating capacity has been reduced to comply with social distancing rules.”
Tickets remain available for UFC on ABC 1 next Saturday, as well as UFC on ESPN 20, which takes place Wednesday, Jan. 20. UFC on ABC 1 will be headlined by a featherweight fight between former champion Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. Four days later, Michael Chiesa meets Neil Magny in the UFC on ESPN 20 main event. Tickets start at $595 AED ($162 USD)
The three events will be the first time since March 2020 that the UFC will have fans in attendance. After getting past the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellations of events, White and the UFC eventually put on a series of events without fans in Jacksonville, Fla., then have made the UFC Apex in Las Vegas its semi-permanent home, also without fans. In addition, the UFC twice in 2020 made multi-event visits to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi for fight cards without fans.
But the big-splash finale for the three-event run in Abu Dhabi over the course of just seven days is UFC 257, which will feature a rematch between former lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor and former interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier.
McGregor is the UFC’s biggest draw by far. He has headlined all but three of his 12 career UFC fights, including his past seven on pay-per-view. In January 2020, he fought Donald Cerrone and generated a reported 1 million pay-per-view buys, which was his lowest number since UFC 189 did a reported 825,000 buys for his interim featherweight title win over Chad Mendes. His UFC 229 submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov generated a reported UFC record 2.4 million buys.
Where the UFC will have to suffer likely significant losses are in the live gate totals that McGregor fights typically have generated, mostly in Las Vegas. His UFC 246 fight against Cerrone ha a live gate in excess of $11 million at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena and UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in New York each generated more than $17 million in live gate totals – an MMA record, as well as the Garden’s gate record.