For months, ‘Fight Island’ was the mysterious super-plan dreamed up by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) boss Dana White in response to international lockdowns the world over.
This weekend, his grand vision becomes reality in the surreal surrounds of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, the bio-bubble venue hosting UFC 251, which will be broadcast on SuperSport this weekend – LIVE on SuperSport 11 from 02:00 AM Sunday.
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Amid super-strict health protocols, which resulted in headliner Gilbert Burns forfeiting his spot at the 11th hour after testing positive for the Coronavirus, the MMA organization has managed to put together one of the best shows of recent years.
Even though Burns lost his shot, Jorge Masvidal (35-13-0) of the US is an outstanding replacement as a challenger for Nigerian Kamaru Usman’s welterweight belt. Notwithstanding the late notice, Masvidal was hard in training and ready for action.
Masvidal, a seven-year UFC veteran, went 3-0 last year, including setting the record for the fastest KO in UFC history against Ben Askren (five seconds). He didn’t mince his words: “I’m happy, more than anything because I get to break this guy’s face, then get paid for it.”
Usman (16-1-0), also known as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, is one of UFC’s most formidable fighters and was unfazed by the change, reckoning his heavy hands will do the business.
“At the end of the day when you’re in the training camp? And you train the way I train? You see no face. When I cross into the Octagon, I need to turn on ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’. And leave Kamaru Usman on the outside. So, I see no face by the time I’m in there anyway,” said the African-born fighter regarding having a new opponent at the last minute.
UFC 251 will also feature two other championship bouts: former featherweight titleholder Max Holloway (21-5-0) will take on the man who dethroned him, Alexander Volkanovski (21-1-0), in a much-awaited rematch, while Petr Yan (14-1-0) and Jose Aldo (28-6-0) are due to fight for the vacant men’s bantamweight belt.
Yan, known as ‘No Mercy’, says he expects a tough battle against Aldo: “He doesn’t make many mistakes. He will be ready to go the full distance. But I believe I have the ability and tools to defeat him. I have no doubt it will be an exciting contest. It is because our styles match up very well.”
Volkanovski, meanwhile, feels he has been overlooked as the new featherweight champion and has promised to put Holloway down inside the five rounds this time around: “People quickly forget how I did it, there were biased opinions and commentary, everything. So, I’m a little bit annoyed, I feel disrespected. I’ve got something to prove this time, I’ll put him away inside the five [rounds] this time. I guarantee you that. I’m sending a message.”
The main card of UFC 251 also features a women’s strawweight bout between Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) and Rose Namajunas (9-4-0), as well as Amanda Ribas (9-1-0) v Paige VanZant (8-4-0) in the women’s flyweight division.
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UFC 251 – Broadcast details
Sunday 12 July
02:00: Preliminary card – LIVE on SuperSport 11
04:00: Main card – LIVE on SuperSport 11
UFC 251 – Main card
– Main event: Welterweight championship: Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal
– Co-main: Featherweight championship: Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway
– Vacant bantamweight championship: Petr Yan v Jose Aldo
– Women’s strawweight: Jessica Andrade v Rose Namajunas
– Women’s flyweight: Amanda Ribas v Paige VanZant