At the UFC 257 press conference in Abu Dhabi – minutes after Dustin Poirier defeated Conor McGregor in a highly successful fight – the man of the moment compared his two-week experience on Fight Island to a prison in his own head.
You can’t call the island Battle Island, Mr. Poirier said. It’s the Fight Hotel.
Poirier’s description was probably a little different than the images that appeared when we first heard the term Fight Island. Mind Jail isn’t really about making noise and partying on the beach – something most of us would want to experience as an island experience, I think.
The truth about Fight Island is: It was a bubble, and a serious one at that. When I arrived at Hotel W in Abu Dhabi, I was greeted by staff in protective clothing and quickly taken to the test site, which I visited four more times during my stay, although I was not allowed to leave the hotel.
The PDU resumes operations on the 6th. February returns to the UFC Apex, where Alistair Overeem (6 ESPN points) and Alexander Volkov (7 ESPN points) will fight for promotion to the heavyweight division. Overeem has won four of his last five fights, while Volkov picked up a win against Walt Harris in October.
CFU Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov
– Saturday 6. February, Las Vegas (UFC Apex)
– Main card: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+
– Preliminary rounds: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+
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I would say the experience was fantastic – because everyone in the hotel was involved in the fighting in some way. Think of it as a camp or college campus with some of the world’s greatest fighters.
And although the stay for 14 consecutive days was monotonous, I must say it was very enjoyable, there was a palpable sense of excitement and pride in being there, even during the first week of UFC events in 2021.
At one point, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway and Michael Chandler were in the same building at the same time. That alone was exciting.
During those 14 days, Battle Island was the epicenter of a world of battles. And even though most of the time it was sitting in a hotel room or eating at the same restaurant for the eighth time, there were some incredible moments to watch.
These are the best five, in my opinion, on the planet.
1. The legendary performance of Max Holloway
If there’s one thing I’ll never forget from those two weeks, it’s Holloway’s fight with Calvin Kattar on the 16th. January. I’ve been talking about it a lot this week: …. It was like another Holloway. He’s always very friendly and makes a few jokes here and there with Daniel Cormier, but mostly Holloway has a great team around him during fight week, he likes to go out and see the sights of the area – he has that upbeat vibe, at least from what I’ve seen. But in that period before sunrise, I felt like I was at an advantage. As one Fight Islander told me, Holloway unleashed some demons in this match.
I was watching the fight from the commentary section inside the cage. After the fourth round, when many felt the fight should have been stopped, I looked down and saw Kattar’s blood on the mat in front of me. And the plexiglass that sat between my office and the octagon splintered a lot more.
The charter of Holloway and Cattara did not leave Battle Island until the following Thursday, so they remained near the hotel for the next few days. I saw Kattar a couple of times. The first was in the hotel gym. He and his team were in the gym a day or two after the fight. And I saw him again dining on the restaurant terrace with his crew. He kept his sunglasses on, but overall he looked surprisingly good.
2. The return of Khabib Nurmagomedov to the island of battle
Khabib was there to take on his young cousin, Umar Nurmagomedov, on the 20th in his UFC debut. January in a corner. I watched this fight from the broadcast booth, which was on a raised platform in the corner of the arena. And when Umar got a good kick to his body and started chasing his opponent, the way Habib jumped out of his chair and yelled at him to be patient was very memorable.
I think I saw more enthusiasm and nervousness from Khabib when his nephew was on than at any other time in his own fighting career. And the pride he felt after Umar’s victory was very touching. Khabib translated for Umar during our post-fight interview, and I joked that Umar’s jab already looked better than Khabib’s at any point in his career. I think it’s great that we are still seeing this Khabib in the sport after his retirement.
3. The curious case of Ottman Azaitar
When I first heard that Azaitar’s fight at UFC 257 had been cancelled on the day of the weigh-in, my first thought was of course that it must have something to do with health. Either something to do with difficult weight loss or a disease of some sort. At the end of the day, CFS President Dana White announced that Azaitar was no longer employed by the CFS, saying that Azaitar had helped an unauthorized person sneak into the bubble. According to White, the intruder ransacked four balconies to get a bag (contents unknown) into Azaitar’s room before he was caught by CFU security.
The call inside the bubble was the same as the call outside the bubble …. In other words, everyone wanted to know what was in the bag. Neither Azaitar nor his manager Ali Abdelaziz have commented publicly on the issue, so we’ll see how things go. But that was actually the topic of the day in Abu Dhabi.
4. Michael Chiesa, Neil Magny bromance
Michael Chiesa (left) and Neil Magny clash at the UFC weigh-in on the 19th. Janvier across the street. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa Ltd.
Michael Chiesa and Neil Manny met on the 19th. Janvier can’t agree on who will win the first fight, with Manny drawing the short straw. They called each other several times during their careers, but they always remained friendly.
On the morning of the fight, my producer Charlie saw that Chiesa approached Magny in the breakfast room and wished her good luck, then asked him what he was going to do after the fight – if he wanted to hang out after the fight. The next day, they hosted a UFC T-shirt exchange in the hotel lobby. If you know them, you’re not surprised, because they’ve been nothing short of class their entire career. But it was still very cool to see it first hand.
5. Conor McGregor above and below
Watch Conor McGregor and his son work with heavy construction equipment on the beach.
At the beginning of the UFC 257 fight week, rumors circulated that McGregor would have made a stop in the marina right next to his hotel on his personal yacht, which would have been pretty cool. Imagine Holloway on his balcony overlooking the marina, sipping an espresso and yelling at McGregor that he’s the best MMA boxer. But McGregor eventually docked the yacht out of sight of the hotel – and much later than expected. The lobby was full of staff, guards and cameras the night he finally checked in because he was originally supposed to be there.
When he checked in, of course, it was in vogue. Shirtless, he carries Conor Jr. into the lobby. At the start of his press conference, this week was all about McGregor. As one would expect. We’d all be deprived of what McGregor might look like in 2020, thinking about his 40-second KO against Donald Cerrone on the 18th. January. McGregor’s week and the year ahead were certainly full of optimism, and I have no hesitation in saying that the vast majority of people I spoke to before the fight believed McGregor would win.
Conor McGregor left the locker room on a stool after #[email protected] pic.twitter.com/GAQSrIVhRf
– ESPN (@espn) 24. January 2021
And when I compare that moment of his arrival to the moment I saw him come out of the locker room after the loss to Poirier, carrying a crutch on his way to the press conference, it was extremely memorable for me. Because of course, as time goes on, we will find out where McGregor is going, what his next fight will be and how he will participate in it. But when he limped off in his first KO loss of his career, the question arose whether we were witnessing the beginning of the end of McGregor’s career as an elite fighter. It’s amazing what can happen to a fighter’s career in a week in this sport.
frequently asked questions
How much did Conor McGregor score against Cerrone?
2020 Celebrity 100 Earnings In January 2020, he received over $30 million for his first punch against Donald Cowboy Cerrone. In 2018, it renewed its sponsorship agreement with Reebok, which pays the Irishman about $5 million a year. McGregor founded the Irish Distillery for Whiskey Property Number.
How much money did Conor McGregor get for his last fight?
Mayweather’s guaranteed salary was $100 million and McGregor’s was $30 million. However, the price for each of the two fighters was to be considerably higher, with Mayweather earning $280 million and McGregor $130 million.
Who knocked out Conor McGregor in 40 seconds?
Conor McGregor defeats Cowboy Cerrone at UFC 246 by TKO in 40 seconds. Conor McGregor earned a win inside the Octagon with a TKO first round victory over Donald Cowboy Cerrone to close out UFC 246 in Las Vegas on Saturday.