The Ultimate Fighting Championship marketing machine has created great expectations for the debut of Fight Island with UFC 251 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. However, it will not be the first time a cage was constructed on the sand and close to the sea.
Twenty-one years ago, on July 1, 1999, Brazilian promoter Frederico Lapenda staged World Vale Tudo Championship 8 at the Havana Beach Club in Aruba. The cage was located just 10 meters from the Caribbean Sea, and the event featured an eight-man openweight vale tudo tournament, with no gloves and few rules.
Even though he was one of the smallest competitors in the bracket, luta livre practitioner Alexandre Ferreira was the big name on the card. After striking his first two opponents into submission, “Cacareco” defeated Heath Herring in the final. Herring had employed heavy ground-and-pound to eliminate his first two opponents. However, Ferreira neutralized the American by taking him down four times in 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ferreira mentor Hugo Duarte suffered an illegal eye attack from Mikhail Avetisyan in the show’s superfight. The most anticipated match on the card lasted just 1:50 and resulted in Avetisyan being disqualified. The Russian took issue with Duarte’s attitude and kicked his leg while doctors tended to him. Of course, this did not sit well with the Brazilian. When Duarte was exiting the cage after Ferreira’s win, he engaged Avetisyan on the sand outside the cage in a seen similar to the one that followed Khabib Nurmagomedov-Conor McGregor at UFC 229 some two decades later. Lapenda attempted to book the rematch at WVC 9, but the plans failed to materialize.