UFC president Dana White has announced Fight Island more than six weeks ago, during which he is asked about it at every opportunity. But his plans remain shrouded in mystery.
Where is the island?
When will it be launched?
Who will fight there?
White said the concept of fighting on an island outside the United States is to circumvent the travel restrictions that his international fighters would face in that country because of the coronavirus pandemic. So, we know that there will be an international flavor.
He also said that there are hotels on the island. He said the infrastructure should be completed in mid-June, but he is unsure whether the first card will be that weekend or the end of June.
White also said the light title unification fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje will be on Fight Island, but with Nurmagomedov less than a month from the holy month of Ramadan, during which he fasts, and with his father was hospitalized, he is unlikely to fight in the near future.
About Conor McGregor? It would make sense that the UFC wanted to reserve its biggest star for what should be a highly successful event. Or does the promotion prefer to stack the card with championship fights?
ESPN's Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim reserved the main card they would like to see when Fight Island comes true.
Ariel Helwani main card for Fight Island debut
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
I know what you've probably been thinking from the start: no title disputes at the debut of Fight Island? What gives?!
1. McGregor is bigger than any UFC title. You already know that.
2. And the UFC will not put any other champion on the same card as McGregor, because their pay-per-views tie so well that they don't want to share this PPV pie with a champion who may qualify for a percentage of the revenue from PPV. Now, they could put a vague title on the card, but I don't think so.
It is also worth noting: the UFC is not generating live gate revenue nowadays, because their fights are in empty arenas, so they need to be a little more selective when it comes to the construction of these cards.
So why did McGregor vs. Diaz 3? Well, oddly enough, there is no right opponent for McGregor at the moment. Not with Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov tied. So, who's the next best thing? Old Nathan Diaz is who. The fight sells itself, and if you add the wrinkles of the fight on the famous Fight Island, it will make the fight look bigger. One caveat: it must be 155 pounds. It seems that the stakes are higher if it is a light fight, because this is the weight class in which the two did so well.
As for the rest of the card, yes, I know Whittaker vs. Till was supposed to happen in August, but they seem relaxed enough to fight early. I think they can be persuaded. I love this fight. Shahbazyan is one of the UFC's bright young stars, and that would be a great way to show him to what would be a large audience. In addition, they tried to book this Brunson fight for him in March and April, so they win. Edwards deserves a great fight after all the bad luck he had, so who better than the biggest jump in the UFC to serve as his role on the Island? And Jung vs. Ortega is one of the best UFC grudge games now, after what happened at UFC 248 in March, when Ortega slapped Jung's friend Jay Park, who happens to be a very popular recording artist in South Korea. I know the fans won't be there, but Park had better be there for this fight. It's fair.
Brett Okamoto main card for Fight Island debut
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
Robert Whittaker vs Darren Till
I'll divide it by fight, starting with the main card's curtain lifter.
Lawler vs. Pettis, at welterweight. I know that Pettis wants to go back to lightweight, and he should. It's his best weight class. And I know that Lawler has fought comfortably at middleweight for years. It may seem like I'm throwing Pettis to the wolves, but he never dodged a scary fight, and Lawler is not at his peak. Not long ago, Lawler fought Donald Cerrone, whom Pettis just defeated. What's the big fight at lightweight for Pettis now? I don't see one. These are two veterans with a history of fun fights and similar minds. Start the main card with a bang.
Zabit vs. Yair. One of these two could be the future of the featherweight division. They have danced around the idea of competing several times in recent years. Fight the potential of the year.
Count DC for the Conor trilogy and "Nasty Nate".
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 18, 2020
Until vs. Whittaker. This fight was originally scheduled for August, and the fan reception was 10 out of 10. I don't think there was anyone who saw this fight and didn't fall in love with it instantly. We will keep it together and play it on the island.
I know what many of you are probably thinking: A flyweight fight as the main event of Fight Island's debut? Even if you like the fly weights, this is something serious to give at 125 pounds. But see, that is the point. This division has always suffered from a lack of general interest, but here's what I'm going to say about this fight:
1. It's a fun combination of style. Go review their first date. It was a risky affair for both of them, and I believe the rematch will be the same.
2. It has stories: Benavidez's last shot; Figueiredo lost weight the last time; the head-butt controversy. Lots to talk about in the accumulation.
3. It is worth promoting. Add a little sparkle. Place it where it will attract many eyes.
McGregor vs. Diaz. I gave some ideas for the main event, but I finally got back to the obvious. McGregor. He's the biggest star in the sport, and Fight Island is the most exclusive idea / concept for a fight venue in UFC history. It has to be McGregor, and the opponent has to be Diaz. Jorge Masvidal it would be fun, but he needs to fight Kamaru Usman. Justin Gaethje would also be fun, but he is looking at Khabib Nurmagomedov. Tony Ferguson It would be incredible, but he can't make this turnaround after the fight with Gaethje on May 9th. McGregor vs. Diaz 3 always had to happen. Ever. It's only a matter of time. How about we end the trilogy during a global pandemic in a place called Fight Island? Sounds perfect.
Marc Raimondi's main card for Fight Island debut
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
Rob Whittaker vs. Darren Till
Chan Sung Jung vs Zabit Magomedsharipov
McGregor, Diaz, Adesanya, Costa, Cejudo and Till on an island. What's the worst that could happen, right?
The McGregor vs. Trilogy Diaz is not obvious at the top. It would be a shame for the third fight not to be in front of a live crowd, but even worse if it were in an empty arena. The third will be on an island, and what is the best place to face one of the best rivalries in the sport? The first two fights were among the best-selling pay-per-view events in UFC history. With little going on in the sports world in the near future, imagine how much interest this would create.
The co-main event is a fight between the two main middleweight in the world. Costa would have won the title earlier had he not suffered a bicep injury. Adesanya was able to leave Yoel Romero at UFC 248 on March 7. It wasn't a very good fight, but Adesanya vs. Costa has all the ingredients for fireworks, including bad blood.
Cejudo "retired" after his successful defense of the bantamweight title Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 on May 9th. Will stay? What he really wants is a pay rise, a compensation befitting one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. So, how about pay-per-view points on the McGregor vs. Trilogy card. Diaz? In addition, Aldo is the opponent that Cejudo always wanted, even if he is not the main bantamweight competitor. It is still a tremendous struggle.
Fight Island's main card is completed by a pair of contender fights. Until you have to be booked for this event, right? He is the king of the quarantine of social media. Also, if someone falls out of Adesanya vs. Costa, Till or Whittaker can fill. And then you start with a battle between two of the most creatively violent men in MMA. It can't go wrong with Zabit and The Korean Zombie.
Jeff Wagenheim main card for Fight Island debut
Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa (middleweight title fight)
Colby Covington vs. Leon Edwards
Chan Sung Jung vs Zabit Magomedsharipov
It's always about championship fights for me. I would love to have built this outstanding card around the fight for the most intoxicating title on the UFC horizon, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje, but the canoes will leave for Fight Island a little too soon for that, especially with the champion's father in the hospital . So, we will replace it with a brilliant trio of fights for the title, including the second largest destined for international waters. Adesanya-Costa is a combination where heat is just a spicy dish for a 19-0 vs. main dish. 13-0.
However, I am only doing my co-main event, because of the title tradition – heavier champions fight later – and because Jones, even in a fight that is not so expected, is pound for pound royalty and Candidate of the GOAT. A dominant performance here would erase the bitter taste of your two narrow and narrow decisions and reinforce a heavy confrontation with Francis Ngannou. By the way, I'm giving the title to Blachowicz, no Dominick Reyes, because I believe that a challenger who falls short, even with a narrow margin, must have to fight to get a second chance.
Bonus: Jones and Adesanya stranded on an island together can turn into their own reality show drama.
Volkanovski vs. Holloway deserves more than an afterthought, but this event deserves nothing less than to see the champion and the former champion back out. And that makes two fights for the title of City Kickboxing.
Then there are the two opening fights, which can steal the show. And Covington vs. Edwards could create a No. 1 contender in a welterweight division with many moving parts. I have to continue collecting raw materials for the next crop of championship fights.
Why no main McGregor event, like my colleagues? I'm just keeping it real. He loves watching Conor compete, but he is a pot of gold alone that the UFC tends not to stack his cards with. And I wanted to stack this card. Also, the McGregor fight I want – a rematch with Poirier, which would be a legitimate route to main contender status – doesn't have the impetus for Nate 3. So I'm going to make it through now.