Lakes, Parks, Gardens, and Drive-Ins: A look at unique combat sports venues during COVID-19 pandemic

The UFC made a massive deal about “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, when in reality they’ve been to Yas Island a few times before,…

By: Mookie Alexander | 3 years ago
Lakes, Parks, Gardens, and Drive-Ins: A look at unique combat sports venues during COVID-19 pandemic
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The UFC made a massive deal about “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, when in reality they’ve been to Yas Island a few times before, only this time they were able to section off the island as exclusive to UFC personnel and fighters. While there was an Octagon on the beach, the actual fights took place inside an arena, and truth be told the broadcasts inside the venues did not look all that different from any other venue in the world.

As boxing and MMA promoters look to restart during this COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been quite a bit of thought and some creativity involved to bring their shows back. Some like Top Rank Boxing and Bellator MMA have opted to use the MGM Grand Conference Center and the Mohegan Sun Arena respectively for their restarts, while others have gone for the outdoor route where the atmosphere is quite easy to capture on screen.

It’s a bit boring to showcase any of the indoor venues, so instead we’re going to focus on the more notable outdoor events put on in recent weeks.

Matchroom Boxing – Fight Garden (England)

Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

I know officially this is called Fight Camp but I’m partial to Fight Garden, because the ring is constructed literally in the back garden of Matchroom Boxing headquarters in London. This was promoter Eddie Hearn’s childhood home turned place of business, and over the next few weekends there will be five-fight events in his family’s spacious estate. For all of the tight regulations the UFC and others have adhered to in the United States, the British Boxing Board of Control is arguably stricter re testing, capacity limits, etc. For instance, here were no ring card women, all corners had to wear face shields, refs have to wear masks, and ring announcer David Diamante did his job from a distance and never physically entered the ring.

Hearn spared no expense in terms of presentation — fireworks, pyrotechnics, etc. Unfortunately, even without fans, we were still subjected to “Sweet Caroline.”

As for the fights themselves, Week 1 was entertaining domestic-level clashes, and the strongest event will be August 22nd when Dillian Whyte faces Alexander Povetkin in a key heavyweight battle, while Katie Taylor rematches Delfine Persoon for Taylor’s women’s lightweight titles.

Universum Boxing – Drive-In Fights (Germany)

You’ve heard of drive-in movie theaters, but probably not drive-in boxing. This Universum show in Dusseldorf on July 11th did have fans in attendance, literally in the parking lot but obviously in their vehicles. To cheer for fighters, they honked their horns. This nine-fight card went off without any issues and was live streamed for all to see.

SES Sports – Fight Park (Germany)

We’re staying in Germany but this time going to the city of Magdeberg. A card topped by heavyweights Agit Kabayel and Evgenios Lazaridis took place at the scenic Seebühne Elbauenpark. Limited fans were in attendance and spaced appropriately for physical distancing, and they got to enjoy an evening’s worth of fights at an amphitheater while fighters had ring walks over a riverbank.


RWC 5 – Fight Lake (Poland)

In research, I learned that RWC stands for Rocky Warriors Cartel. I can dig it. The Polish based promotion restarted its event schedule on July 31st, but instead of an indoor arena they went the amphitheater route. Live fights, again with limited fans in attendance (physical distancing? Not really there!), from the Amfiteatr Mrągowo near Lake Czos.

Pat Miletich vs. Michael Nunn Kickboxing – Parking Lot Fight (Iowa)

Yeah the less said about this the better, but I’m adding it to the list. More than 3,000 people showed up to this circus.

Road to WWFC 24 – Street Fight (Ukraine)

MMA in the middle of the street in Mykolaiv. Totally normal thing for these normal times.

Matchroom Boxing – Street Fight (Oklahoma)

This actually hasn’t happened yet but Matchroom Boxing’s return to the United States is at least conceptualized. On August 15th, Cecilia Braekhus and Jessica McCaskill will vie for the undisputed women’s welterweight title, and it’ll take place in Downtown Tulsa without fans but literally at the intersection of 5th St and Boston Ave. With the COVID-19 outbreak having recently hit Tulsa fairly hard, this seems like a questionable move, so this is all subject to change.

Honestly, I think the only way to enhance this is to have the ringwalks literally in dark alleys.

Stay tuned because this pandemic is far from over and one can only assume that the ideas may get even more creative (if not outright crazy) from here!

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Mookie Alexander
Mookie Alexander

Mookie is a former Associate Editor for Bloody Elbow, leaving in August 2022 after ten years as a member of the staff. He's still lurking behind the scenes.

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