What is it like to be on UFC Fight Island? Go behind the scenes ahead of Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier 2

'What is it like to be on Fight Island?'

That's been the burning question on the minds of many mixed martial arts fans ever since the UFC's first two stints in Abu Dhabi in last year.

Only a select few fighters and media members have had the opportunity to take part in the promotion's latest blockbuster venture, which has all the makings of a financial goldmine

A full-sized octagon on the beach, beautiful surroundings and, to top it off, a state-of-the-art arena to watch the fights in.

Fight Island has absolutely everything an MMA fan could want from a resort.

But during these testing Covid-19 times – which restricted us to our hotel, the W Hotel and the arena – the first 48 hours of attendees' stays are anything but exciting.

Immediately after being whisked to our hotel from the airport, myself and my fellow media members promptly undergo yet another Covid test.

And after taking the test – my most painful to date -we are promptly quarantined in our rooms for 48 hours. Well, just shy of 48 hours as we briefly leave them the following day to undergo a second test.

Painful as they may be, they're absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of everyone in the UFC bubble – which is clearly paramount for the promotion.

Unlike quarantines of the past, this one was a cakewalk as I had plenty of work and tape to catch up on ahead of Fight Week.

The news I'd been crossing my fingers for came through at 2:00am the following morning, although, despite my negative test, I wasn't allowed to leave my room until after midday.

The joy that my time on Fight Island was set to continue was soon replaced by the disappointment I'd have to wait two days for all the fun and games to get underway. But before I knew it, it was time for the first of three media days.

In normal circumstances, we would get up close and personal with the fighters competing on the Holloway vs Kattar card, the first of the promotion's three stacked shows in the desert.

But this media day, as good and entertaining as it was, was a far cry from those before the pandemic.

Gone are the packed rooms filled with media members vying for position and trying to get one-on-one time with fighters.

Instead, media day is now in the form of a press conference, where, as is the case throughout the safe zone, we're required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.

Although it's a necessary evil, which I by no means begrudge given the current climate, the whole thing seems alien.

As unfamiliar as media day felt, I soon felt at home setting foot inside the brand spanking new Etihad Arena – which we were given a brief tour of the following day ahead of Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar's first face-off.

To say everything about the 18,000 seater arena is flashy would be somewhat of an understatement.

Everything from the seats to the lights is state of the art. You could really tell the creators spared no expense when it came to building this venue.

Although the finishing touches were still being put on and there wasn't a fan in sight, you could tell the venue would be stellar once it was completed and at full capacity.

The Fight-Week vibe really ramped up a gear the following day ahead of the weigh-ins and face-offs.

The anticipation for the feast of fights was palpable and reached new levels after intense staredowns between future hall-of-famers Carlos Condit and Matt Brown.

After the weigh-ins were in the books, we were once again treated to another tour of the Etihad. Although this time, we got to see it in more of its glory.

As we walked through, the production team were doing dry rehearsals and testing out the lighting. And to say it was a sight to behold would be doing the arena a huge disservice. It was a thing of beauty.

We were also lucky enough to be shown a spectacular view of the arena floor from one of the plush executive boxes, which almost certainly cost a few bob.

Seeing the arena lit up reminded me of events gone by, although all that was missing at that moment was the presence of fans and the fighters themselves. But that would change in a little over 24 hours time.

Stepping into the arena the following night for my first live sporting event since UFC 246 last January was somewhat surreal. And to see fans dotted throughout the arena was even weirder given the situation back in the UK.

However, all those in attendance – just like the fighters and members of the media – were only granted entry after providing proof of negative covid tests.

And to ensure none of them could get anywhere near the floor, arena staff put up barriers and plexiglass as separators.

The first card of the year was a slow burner, but the blue touch paper was well and truly lit when Alessio Di Chirico scored a stunning head-kick KO victory over viral sensation Joaquin Buckley.

And just as the dust began to settle on the Italian's knockout of the night, China's Li Jingliang dropped everyone's jaws with a devastating KO of welterweight standout Santiago Ponzinibbio.

And then there was the main event, a fight that will live long in the memory.

The much-loved Holloway put on a career-best performance against the No.6-ranked Kattar to snap a two-fight losing streak. And he did so with ease.

Blessed picked apart the Boston bruiser for five straight rounds, in which he landed a staggering 445 significant strikes – the most in UFC history – and left him a bloody mess.

The Hawaiian dazzled those in the arena and the viewers at home with his diversity of strikes and his evasive capabilities, most notably his avoiding of a six-punch combination after declaring himself 'the best boxer in the UFC.'

The UFC made the perfect call by kicking off their third stint on Fight Island with a motivated Holloway as their first headliner.

And the anticipation for the week to come, in particular UFC 257, is white-hot after Holloway's clinic.

In just a matter of days, Conor McGregor, one of the biggest stars in all of sport, will be back in action against his old rival Dustin Poirier.

And the winner of their showdown will potentially earn a rematch with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The announcement that we could soon see a rematch between McGregor and Nurmagomedov has significantly raised everyone's expectations on Yas Island – as well as fight fans across the world.

The stage has well and truly been set for what promises to be a special McGregor fight night.

And although it's come in anything but normal circumstances,I fully expect it to deliver in spades. I mean after all, when haven't they?

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