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In a previous BJSM blog posted in April this year Nitin K Sethi posed the question, ‘Amid the COVID-19 pandemic should combat sports events be held ‘behind closed doors’?1 The article’s conclusion was that with the right preparation and ‘by adopting some of the above practices a cautious start to combat sports events can be contemplated’. Within this context, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) elected to hold a series of fights on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Department of Culture and Tourism and in close liaison with the Department of Health, from 01 to 31 July 2020.
According to the WHO Mass Gatherings Risk Assessment COVID-19 Tool, the risk of hosting the event during that time (during the active phase of the pandemic) was considered ‘Very High Risk’.2 3 The decision then to go ahead was one that was not taken lightly, but the event organisers were confident that they could take the right measures, with a strong operational plan, to successfully protect all involved in a city that was particularly well resourced and already effectively dealing with the pandemic at a population level.
The potential for negative press was anticipated, especially should there be an outbreak at the tournament. The communication strategy for the event was thus inclusive of a strong public relations crisis management plan in the case of positive cases being identified or any reason for the safety of the participants being compromised. The trust of the local and international media was gained …
Contributors Main author.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests GH and CH are employed by Group 42; NK and NAH are employed by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.