Over the last few weeks, the UFC has wrenched itself out of its COVID-induced hibernation. Dana White and the UFC brass seem to have solved the problem of hosting fights in the US. But with many athletes hailing from outside of the United States, countless fighters have been left without a clear date of return. Thankfully, for those looking to compete, “Fight Island” seems to be slowly moving from myth into reality.
Rumors of an Enter the Dragon-esque “Fight Island” have been circulating the MMA world since the start of the pandemic. And in recent weeks, these rumours have only grown stronger. And with athletes such as Daniel Cormier corroborating them, perhaps its time we indulged ourselves in this fantasy.
There are some truly incredible fights the UFC could make for the Island’s debut. And as such, here is a list of some of the best matchups we could hope to see.
Conor McGregor Vs Nate Diaz III
After his masterclass at UFC 249, Justin Gaethje is surely set to face Khabib Nurmagomedov. As a result, Conor McGregor has seemingly been deprived of his two most interesting matchups. But, having set himself the goal of fighting thrice in 2020, it seems unlikely that the Irishman is simply going to sit on the side-lines.
One fight that has been rumoured for a while, would see McGregor challenge Jorge Masvidal for his unique BMF title. Exciting as this fight would be, the UFC does have other options for Masvidal. They could just as easily sell fans on the Usman title matchup. Or, if we’re looking for a more dramatic build-up, the Covington fight. As such, it makes the most sense for Conor to take the fabled trilogy fight with Nate Diaz.
McGregor’s own promises aside, Khabib and Gaethje have both called for the Irishman to really earn his next title shot. And as such, it’s important that McGregor stays active. Moreover, it seems obvious that this long-awaited trilogy fight is the most lucrative matchup possible outside of the Khabib rematch. This, combined with McGregor’s relative lack of opponents, puts Diaz first in line for the Irishman.
Diaz, on the other hand, needs to bounce back from his loss to the inaugural BMF champion. Of course, most fighters would jump at the chance for a McGregor payday. But if Diaz could notch another win over McGregor, he would not only do wonders for his bank account, but also catapult himself back into the limelight, and give him significant bragging rights over one of the self-proclaimed GOATs.
Most important, however, is the sheer fantasy atmosphere surrounding this matchup. With each fighter boasting a win over the other, the storyline is perfect. One of the most heated rivalries in UFC history, what better place to finish the tale than on Fight Island. The time for this fight is now. And with Dana White reportedly in talks with McGregor for a Fight Island comeback, we may see it sooner than we think.
Israel Adesanya Vs Paolo Costa
Since Israel Adesanya’s lacklustre title defence against Yoel Romero, attention has turned to the champion’s long-brewing rivalry with Paulo Costa.
The two were expected to fight earlier in the year, with the clash being delayed by Costa’s bicep injury. But with the “Eraser” back in training, and with Fight Island beckoning, there are few obstacles left in the way of this stellar matchup.
The champion, Adesanya, has reportedly kept himself at around 60% fitness. He has even been eyeing up making his Fight Island debut sometime in July. Speaking to MMA Junkie, Adesanya explained “I like Fight Island. The movie, like the cinema I have in my head – because I’m the protagonist, right, and Costa would be the antagonist in the end of this movie – and to finish it off on Fight Island, that just seems like some ‘Mortal Kombat’ type of ****. It’s just like, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.” Although The Last Stylebender admits nothing is official, he claims to a given the UFC “a timeframe where I feel like [I could fight].”
Costa, meanwhile, has been calling out Adesanya for months. In fact, his attacks have only intensified since the champion’s win over Romero. The contender has accused Adesanya of running from Romero, calling him a “shameful champion” in the aftermath of the fight. And after securing his own win over Romero in his last outing, the Brazilian has rightfully earned his title shot.
Two of the division’s scariest strikers, this fight is destined to be entertaining. And with the bad blood between these two warriors, this could be an iconic matchup for a truly iconic locale.
Darren Till Vs Robert Whittaker
Another middleweight fight that fans would love to see is a contender bout between Darren Till and Robert Whittaker. The two were initially planning to meet in Dublin. However, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, Fight Island seems the logical place to host this explosive matchup.
Thankfully, this fight makes sense for both athletes. Whittaker suffered his first middleweight loss to Adesanya in November. After being forced to pull out of his scheduled fight against Jared Cannonier in January, the Australian fighter is looking to earn a rematch against the current champion. As it happens, the MMA math promises Whittaker another title shot if he can best Darren Till. The Englishman is, of course, coming off a win over Kelvin Gastelum, who himself took the champion to the 5th round in one the greatest fights in middleweight history.
But this fight also happens to be perfect for Till. After making his divisional debut in November, “The Gorilla” is looking to climb the middleweight rankings. And there are few better ways for the Liverpudlian to do this than notching a win over the former champ. Till has never been shy about wanting to face Adesanya. And if he can beat Whittaker, he will be firmly next in line for that fight.
Two more dangerous and exciting strikers, this fight is attractive not only for the martial arts contest but also for the bromance that seems to be brewing between the two fan-favourites. Alongside a great deal of online banter, the two have even teased the idea of not training and turning up to fight with little or no preparation. Whittaker suggested that “we just don’t train at all, we just don’t train. We do a catchweight at like ’95 and just rock up.” To which Till responded, “It’s not even a thought… YES.”
Wherever this fight goes down, the MMA world cannot wait to see these two “dip and chips it up until August and get in there and light it up.”
Max Holloway Vs Alexander Volkanovski
A rematch between former featherweight champion Max Holloway and his successor Alexander Volkanovski has been rumoured since their first fight back in December. And with Dana White confirming Holloway’s immediate rematch at the UFC 249 post-fight press conference, it’s almost confirmed that the two will meet on the fabled Fight Island.
Volkanovski’s win in December completed what has been an incredible rise in the UFC. But with many of the contenders still one fight away from truly earning a title shot, the only man left to face for his first title defence seems to be the former champion himself. In fact, Volkanovski has even called for a challenger to face him on Fight Island, asking Holloway, Ortega, Zabit, and Chan Sung Jung, “If Fight Island happens, who’s up for it?”
Before losing to Volkanovski, Holloway boasted a 14-fight, 6-year win streak in his home division, that saw many commentators pin him as the greatest featherweight of all time. And at just 28 years old, fans are excited to see whether the former champ can best Volkanovski in the rematch and set up an even more exciting 3rd fight.
If this fight is to happen in 2020, it’s likely to be on Fight Island. And if their last fight is anything to go off, it’s not going to be one to miss.
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