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SAM TURNER'S TIPS FOR THE DERBY: The best bets for Saturday's racing

SAM TURNER’S TIPS FOR THE DERBY: Frankie Dettori can beat draw to set up a Classic double on English King at Epsom… and the rest of the best bets for Saturday’s racing

English King may not have found favour with the draw gods but he is still fancied to rule over his Investec Derby (Epsom, 4.55) rivals this afternoon.  

Historically, stall one has been a tough position to overcome with 1999 winner Oath the last horse to manage victory from the outside berth, and only three winners since 1969 have managed the feat.

The bookmakers were quick to ease English King in the betting once news of the draw emerged but that may prove hasty as the decision by connections to utilise Frankie Dettori may prove a masterstroke.

English King is fancied to outshine his rivals at the Investec Derby at Epsom this afternoon

The Italian takes his 25th ride in the world’s greatest Flat race and will arguably require all of his Epsom knowledge to deliver a third Derby win on Ed Walker’s talented colt.

However, English King displayed a number of useful attributes when landing the Lingfield Derby trial, not least the ability to travel well before quickening smartly off a strong pace.

He also proved a well-balanced individual given how he handled the turn into the Lingfield straight and the form of his comeback win was enhanced by the runner-up filling the same position in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.

With English King drifting because of his stalls position, near neighbour Mogul in gate two has arguably been the best-backed horse of the week, despite posting a subdued comeback at Ascot behind Pyledriver in the King Edward VII Stakes.

It would be easy to write off his chance, given how he folded tamely into fourth at the furlong marker and was passed by Mohican Heights.

However, he looked like a horse which was desperately in need of the outing and the fact Ryan Moore rides the son of Galileo in preference to Hampton Court winner, Russian Emperor, suggests he doesn’t particularly rate that event as a valid Derby trial.

If Mogul is a strongly-backed second favourite, housed in a potentially tricky stall alongside English King, there is a theory Pyledriver and Mohican Heights, both of whom finished in front of him at Ascot, are overpriced.

The last named also appeared to be ridden with an eye on today’s prestigious contest and, as a juvenile who won over a mile, he looks sure to progress for a stiffer test at 12 furlongs.

That may not be the case for Guineas hero Kameko, who appears likely to stay in excess of a mile given his run style, but today’s trip and tackling proven middle-distance foes may find him out.

I can’t help thinking Kameko would have lined up in tomorrow’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes if three-year-olds had been allowed this year and I’ll rely on Dettori to ensure English King’s Epsom coronation instead.

FRANKLY DARLING (Epsom, 3.40) may well set the Italian maestro on the road to a Classic double in the Investec Oaks.

The daughter of Frankel, trained by John Gosden, has inherited traits from her father as she was arguably too keen in the early stages of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot before landing the Group One prize.

She must settle a little better but she is fancied to trouble 1,000 guineas.

EPSOM 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

1.50 Twaasol

2.25 Safe Voyage

3.00 Certain Lad

3.40 Frankly Darling

4.15 Fooraat

4.55 English King

5.35 Corazon Espinado (nb)

GIMCRACK  

 1.50 Modern News

2.25 Safe Voyage (nb)

3.00 Caradoc

3.40 Frankly Darling

4.15 Summer Romance

4.55 Kameko (nap)

5.35 Count Otto

HAYDOCK 

12.00 Andronicus Beau

12.30 Bungee Jump

1.00 Snazzy Jazzy

1.30 Theatro (nb)

2.05 Duke Of Condicote

2.40 Manuela De Vega

3.15 BABBO’S BOY (nap)

3.50 Lincoln Park

4.20 Internationangel

SANDOWN  

 1.15 Risk Of Thunder

1.50 Liberty Beach

2.25 Cross Counter

3.00 Montatham

3.35 Ghaiyyath

4.05 Global Giant

4.35 Tulip Fields

5.10 Eshaasy 

TOTESCOOP 6 

Leg 1 Epsom, 2.25

No 4 Safe Voyage

Leg 2 Epsom, 3.00

No 1 Certain Lad

Leg 3 Epsom, 3.40

No 3 Frankly Darling

Leg 4 Epsom, 4.15

No 2 Fooraat

Leg 5 Epsom, 4.55

No 3 English King

Leg 6 Epsom, 5.35

No 14 Corazon Espinado

DONCASTER  

 1.40 Zookeeper

2.15 Ikebana

2.50 Jumaira Bay

3.25 Rose Hip

4.00 Camacho Chief

4.30 Absolute Dream

5.00 Without A Fight

5.35 Doctor Cross6.05 Sports Reporter 

GOODFELLOW’S SUNDAY BEST

HAYDOCK 

12.00 Andronicus Beau

12.30 Bungee Jump

1.00 Snazzy Jazzy

1.30 Theatro (nb)

2.05 Duke Of Condicote

2.40 Manuela De Vega

3.15 BABBO’S BOY (nap)

3.50 Lincoln Park

4.20 Internationangel

SANDOWN  

 1.15 Risk Of Thunder

1.50 Liberty Beach

2.25 Cross Counter

3.00 Montatham

3.35 Ghaiyyath

4.05 Global Giant

4.35 Tulip Fields

5.10 Eshaasy 

HAYDOCK 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

 12.00 Redgrave

12.30 Triple Spear

1.00 Redrosezorro

1.30 Dubai Fountain

2.05 Made For All

2.40 Barossa Red (nap)

3.15 First Kingdom

3.50 Poet’s Lady

4.25 Arch Moon

GIMCRACK 

12.00 Redgrave

12.30 Blazing Hot

1.00 Redrosezorro

1.30 Dubai Fountain

2.05 Top Class Angel

2.40 The Met

3.15 Grande Rumore

3.50 Perfect Inch

4.25 Arch Moon

Newmarket – 1.30 Golden Melody (nb); Northerner – 12.30 Royal Context (nb); 4.25 Arch Moon (nap).

CHELMSFORD 

ROBIN GOODFELLOW

4.35 Waddat

5.10 Al Watan

5.40 Jack Ryan

6.10 Al Dawodiya

6.40 Mubtasimah

7.10 Blame Culture

7.40 Arafi

8.10 Astro King

8.40 Paradise On Earth

GIMCRACK 

4.35 Waddat

5.10 Recovery Run

5.40 Mayson Mount

6.10 Yes Always

6.40 Billesdon Brook

7.10 Coverham

7.40 Arafi

8.10 Astro King

8.40 Flying West

LEICESTER

ROBIN GOODFELLOW 

4.55 Burtonwood

5.25 Thebian

5.55 Fox Hill

6.25 Erich Bloch

6.55 Absolute Dream

7.25 Burguillos

7.55 King Fairy

8.25 My Frankel

8.55 Monsaraz

GIMCRACK   

4.55 Burtonwood

5.25 Aristocratic Lady

5.55 Inexes

6.25 Stringybark Creek

6.55 Elusive Heights

7.25 Jeanette May

7.55 King Fairy

8.25 Nasraawy

8.55 Monsaraz 

Newmarket – 5.25 Aristocratic Lady (nap); 6.25 Full Intention 

For the first time in the race’s history, the 241st Derby will be run behind closed doors. Epsom and Walton Conservators have approved a three-and-a-half-mile fence around the racecourse to keep fans out. 

Owners will be allowed into the course but will be restricted to a separate zone. They can only stay on track for a limited time around their horse’s run. There will be a presentation for the winning jockey and trainer, then the owner.

The race has been pushed back to its latest-ever time of 4.55pm in the hope of attracting a bumper TV audience.

Prize money has been slashed by two thirds, with the Derby now worth £500,000.




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Soccer

The stakes are high for Forest and Derby ahead of East Midlands clash

July 4 might be Back-In-The-Pub day… but it’s also the date of the most eagerly-anticipated East Midlands derby in YEARS, as Forest travel to Pride Park with both teams eyeing Premier League riches

  • Derby and Forest will contest a high-stakes Championship clash on Saturday 
  • This East Midlands derby could be the most important in years for the two rivals  
  • Both teams are in contention for a play-off place with hopes of promotion 
  • July 4 also sees pubs reopening in UK after being locked up due to COVID-19
  • Forest will face the league’s form team, as Derby have won five in a row  

The finer details of the Championship fixture list were probably lost on Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he selected July 4 as the date to invite the nation back to the pub.

But the significance did not escape the citizens of Derby and Nottingham, where the tactical plans of Sabri Lamouchi and Phillip Cocu may be eclipsed by the operation of those publicans planning to reopen premises in time for a rush.

Derby Day at Epsom is Derby Day at Pride Park and this one behind closed doors could be the most important in years for these East Midlands rivals.

Derby County and Nottingham Forest are set to contest their most important clash in years 

Both teams will arrive at Pride Park on Saturday with hopes of promotion via the play-offs

The derby lands on the same day the nation’s pubs open their doors again after many months 

Lamouchi’s Nottingham Forest, strong and comfortably settled in the play-off places, will travel 15 miles west along the A52, the Brian Clough Way, to take on the Championship’s form team.

Cocu’s Derby County have won five in a row, stretching back to the before the lockdown in February. They have taken maximum points from three games since last month’s restart and are moving with menace.

Victory at Preston on Wednesday took them to within a point of the play-off places, and the game’s only goal was scored by Wayne Rooney, who has steadily become a huge influence since his mid-season move back to English football from DC United in the USA.

Rooney has six goals in 18 games for Derby and Cocu, who initially envisaged England’s record goal scorer in an advanced role, has developed a system with the 34-year-old deep in midfield, exuding quality and authority while surrounded by the pace and energy of younger players.

Sabri Lamouchi’s Forest side are strong and comfortably placed in the play-off spots 

Derby are now the form team in the division thanks to the rising influence of Wayne Rooney

It appears to be coming together for a late tilt at promotion which seemed to be beyond the Rams for so much of this turbulent season, dominated by the car accident where long-serving captain Richard Keogh was seriously injured – and later sacked – and teammates Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were convicted of drink-driving.

The Rams have left themselves with very little room for error, however, and face a daunting run-in with games to follow against promotion chasers West Brom, Brentford, Cardiff and Leeds, and the final game of the campaign at Birmingham.

First, though, the East Midlands derby, a fixture rich in history and furiously contested since the 70s, glorious eras for both clubs and a time when they were bound tightly together by the legendary figures of Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and Dave Mackay.

English football revolved around this region for a time when Clough led Derby to the title in 1972 and Mackay repeated the feat three years later. Then Clough transformed Forest into European champions and Taylor left him to take over at the Baseball Ground and they fell out irrevocably.

Football revolved around this region after Brian Clough (R) led both clubs to glory in the 1970s 

The passion of the rivalry has burned on through other managers to cross the divide such as Billy Davies and Steve McClaren, and Clough’s son Nigel, who played with distinction for Forest and managed Derby.

Those heady days of the 70s, however, are distant memories.

Forest have been operating outside the top flight for 21 years. Derby have spent only one of the last 18 seasons in the top flight. They were relegated in 2008 after an infamously dismal season and not returned despite the millions invested by owner Mel Morris.

They have been beaten in the play-offs in four of the last six years. Last season, at Wembley, they lost out to Aston Villa.

It has been a long 21 years since Nottingham Forest last appeared in the English top flight

Automatic promotion has come too late for Philip Cocu’s side and play offs will have to suffice

Cocu’s team have certainly left it too late to consider the top-two and automatic promotion. It will be the lottery of the play-offs at best again for Derby but, after scoring twice in the win against Huddersfield on Sunday, Forest striker Lewis Grabban said he had not given up on the idea of catching one of the top two, Leeds or West Brom.

Lamouchi’s side are fourth, seven points ahead of Derby and seven points behind second-placed West Brom with six games to play.

They have rectified the indifferent form going into the lockdown and have returned with seven points from three games and Grabban back among the goals.

Even without a crowd it could be fiery. And it might not be the last time these rivals meet before this peculiar season is over.




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Racing

F1 is back! The Austrian Grand Prix is underway with first practice

Formula One is back! The 2020 season is finally underway as Lewis Hamilton and Co are given the green light to take part in first practice at the Austrian Grand Prix following 16-week absence

  • The 2020 Formula One season is underway following a long 16-week absence
  • The drivers have begun their preparations for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix
  • Lewis Hamilton and Co took to the track at the Red Bull Ring for first practice

Formula One has made its long-awaited return to our television screens with the first practice session ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix – 16 weeks to the day since the 2020 campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewis Hamilton took to the track on Friday morning in Mercedes’ brand new black car, with the world champion one of the last drivers to leave the garage for the initial practice session.

Under overcast skies and on a drying track after morning rain, British driver Lando Norris completed the first lap of the new season. 

Lewis Hamilton takes to the track at the Red Bull Ring for first practice ahead of the Austria GP

McLaren’s British driver Lando Norris was the first to post a lap time during first practice

But all eyes were on Hamilton and his stunning all-black Mercedes, who this year is bidding to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships. 

Hamilton’s Mercedes team have dropped their traditional silver colours for black this season to show solidarity with their star driver in the fight against racism.

Hamilton, who has been one of British sport’s most prominent voices on the Black Lives Matter Movement, arrived here on Friday wearing an ‘End Racism’ t-shirt. 

And it wasn’t just the Mercedes that had changed following the start of the new season, with the sport set to make several adjustments following the outbreak of Covid-19.

One of the more obvious changes will be that there are no fans present during race weekends, with F1 following in the footsteps of other sports that have resumed behind closed doors.

Pierre Gasly makes his way around the track in his Scuderia AlphaTauri on Friday morning

Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat leaves the team garage for practice

Fans would usually line the stands at the Red Bull Ring on race weekend but were empty on Friday as the drivers began to post lap times during the first practice session.

Another tradition that will be dropped for the Austrian GP and future races will be that there are no podium ceremonies, with F1 officials determined to stick to new health and safety measures surrounding the coronavirus.

The will be no grid walk for media personnel to conduct pre-race interviews while the media’s presence will be reduced as a whole.

Drivers and any personnel at races will now adhere to strict testing for Covid-19, where they will be tested before travelling to an event.

Following this they are then tested at five-day intervals, with any signs of symptoms of the virus leading to additional testing.

Should a positive test be recorded the person in question is isolated before those they have been in close contact with are also tested and isolated pending results.

A ‘End Racism’ message is put up in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Teams will then be isolated away from each other in their own little bubbles in a bid to reduce any risk of the virus from spreading, should it become present.

Face masks are now mandatory for all involved on race weekends while each team has reduced its personnel. This means only 80 members (down from 130) from each team will be allowed at the circuit, with the limit also capping those working on the car – known as operational personnel limited to 60.

The pre-race build-up will also be shortened, with the pit-lane now open just 30 minutes before the start of the race and each team will have a limit of just 40 people allowed on the grid. Drivers will also not be allowed to stand together while observing national anthems. 

2020 FORMULA ONE CALENDAR 

Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg): July 5

Styrian GP (Spielberg): July 13

Hungarian GP (Budapest): July 19

British GP (Silverstone): August 2

70th Anniversary GP (Silverstone): August 9

Spanish GP (Barcelona): August 16

Belgian GP (Spa-Francorchamps): August 30

Italian GP (Monza): September 6

STILL PLANNED

September-November: Eurasia (Russia), Asia (Vietnam and China) and Americas (Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil)

December: Middle East (Bahrain and Abu Dhabi)

CANCELLED

Australia, Monaco, France, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan




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Soccer

CHRIS SUTTON: De Bruyne is the Premier League's greatest ever passer

CHRIS SUTTON: Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is the greatest ever passer in the Premier League

  • Kevin De Bruyne span Premier League champions Liverpool silly on Thursday
  • He combines qualities of Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Dennis Bergakmp 
  • No matter where he is told to play, the Belgian star becomes the best at it 

Is Kevin De Bruyne the greatest passer in the Premier League history? I found myself wondering that while watching him spin Liverpool silly on Thursday night, and can’t think of anyone better. 

He has the range of Paul Scholes. He has the crossing expertise of David Beckham. He has the poise of Dennis Bergkamp. 

No matter what position Pep Guardiola tells him to play in, he becomes the best at it. 

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is the Premier League’s greatest ever passer

I know we gush about the 29-year-old Belgian regularly, but when he puts in a performance such as this, you simply have to applaud the best player in the Premier League. 

With all of this in mind, do you then name him Player of the Year? I’m afraid not. That title belongs to Virgil van Dijk for his influence in Liverpool being crowned champions. 

The visitors, after a well-deserved few days on the lash, started well here. But the hosts won’t have enjoyed giving their opponents a guard of honour and came out with a point to prove. They did that, with De Bruyne the chief tormentor. 

De Bruyne combines the qualities of Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Dennis Bergkamp

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk should be Premier League Player of the Year ahead of De Bruyne




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Fighting

Boxer Amir Khan mourns the death of his new born nephew

Boxer Amir Khan mourns the tragic death of his new born nephew as he asks his followers to ‘keep us in your prayers’ in an emotional tribute on social media

  • Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew
  • Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon, passed away after being born on July 1 
  • Khan asked for his followers on social medial to ‘keep us in your prayers’ 

Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew.

He posted a picture of himself by the burial plot for Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon,

Khan wrote on Instagram: ‘Tough day for the family. My nephew, son of my brother Haroon khan passed away yesterday. The new born didn’t make it. 

Amir Khan posted an emotional tribute on social media after his new born nephew died

‘May Allah make it easy for the family, especially the mother and father, please keep us in your prayers.’

Abdul was born on July 1 but tragically passed away on the same day.  

Haroon Khan is also a boxer, who has won all seven of his professional fights. He won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

He married Arifa Janjua in Pakistan in 2016. They had their first child together, a baby boy, in 2018. 

The newborn baby who tragically died was the son of Amir Khan’s brother Haroon (right)

Amir Khan married Faryal Makhdoom in 2013. They have three children together – a son, Muhammad, and daughters Alayna and Lamaisah. 

Recently, Khan stressed that he doesn’t want to fight again until fans are allowed to attend.

The 33-year-old hasn’t been in action since July 2019, when he beat Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia. 

He has won 21 of his 34 fights, and held the WBA title from 2009 to 2012 and the IBF title in 2011.




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Soccer

The Bruno Bounce: United have invention since signing playmaker

The Bruno Bounce: Manchester United have invention and creativity since signing the playmaker, no-one has energised the club like this since Eric Cantona

  • Bruno Fernandes put on another masterclass with two goals against Brighton
  • Manchester united have invention and creativity since signing the playmaker
  • No other Premier League player has more goal involvements since his arrival 
  • Fernandes is now the catalyst for a dramatic turnaround at Old Trafford 

Bruno Fernandes was back at Carrington yesterday, driving his Mini through the gates of Manchester United’s training ground and parking it among the fleet of luxury sports cars and 4x4s belonging to his team-mates.

United’s new talisman has had to rent a car because he has been unable to share a lift with his Portuguese compatriot Diogo Dalot since the coronavirus outbreak, but his choice of transport is telling.

The only time you will find Fernandes being flash is on a football pitch, as he demonstrated once again at Brighton on Tuesday night. Two goals — the second a textbook volley at the end of an exhilarating United breakaway — were the highlights of another Fernandes masterclass.

Manchester United have invention and creativity with Bruno Fernandes in the middle

Fernandes scored two goals against Brighton as he put on another masterclass for United

That’s six goals and four assists in all competitions for the 25-year-old midfielder since he joined United in January in a deal worth up to £67.8million. No other Premier League player has been involved in so many goals in that time.

Indeed, if the season had started when United signed Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon on January 30, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would be top.

When the player touched down in Manchester on a private jet with his wife Ana, their young daughter Matilde and his representatives, Miguel Pinho and Rui Guimaraes, he discovered a club experiencing more than a little turbulence.

The previous Premier League game had ended with a 2-0 defeat at home to Burnley on a night when fans turned on their own team and, in particular, Ed Woodward in a show of anger that would lead to a disgraceful attack on the home of United’s executive vice-chairman 24 hours before Fernandes arrived.

No other Premier League player has been involved in more goals since Fernandes joined 

The Portuguese midfielder has become the catalyst for a dramatic turnaround at United

A toxic atmosphere was nothing new to him. The previous season, his 32 goals and 18 assists for Sporting helped seal a domestic cup double, and transformed the mood at the club after 50 fans armed with knives had attacked players at the training ground.

Now Fernandes was about to be the catalyst for an equally dramatic turnaround at United. No player has energised the club quite like this since Eric Cantona. In his 12 games, he has yet to taste defeat. There have been eight wins and four draws, with United scoring 28 goals and conceding just four.

But it is impossible to quantify what Fernandes (centre) has brought to United in stats alone. For that, you have to look at the character of the man.

‘Bruno has been fantastic,’ said Solskjaer on Tuesday night. ‘He has brought that winning mentality with him, that 99 per cent is not good enough.’

It was evident on Fernandes’ first day at United when he completed his medical at Carrington and then insisted on going out to train, even though his new teammates weren’t in and it was his daughter’s third birthday.

In the 12 matches Fernandes has played, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are yet to taste defeat

It was noted among the players recently that one of their teammates hadn’t turned up for training. ‘Yes and he wasn’t the only one!’ Fernandes quipped, showing that his excellent grasp of the English language extends to sarcasm as well.

‘He’s got a really dry sense of humour,’ one club insider said yesterday . ‘He takes the mickey out of people but he’s such a positive character. When he talks, they listen. It was a bit quiet before but everyone seems so happy now and there has been a sea change in terms of confidence.’

On his debut against Wolves, he took more shots and played more passes than any other player on the pitch.

It had already been established that the new man wanted to take the set-pieces, and penalties as well. Fernandes has welcomed the responsibility, scoring three times from the spot.

He has already scored three times from the spot since taking on set-piece responsibility 

He has become a magnet for this United side and one who makes his teammates better by linking up the play. Against Brighton he was simply outstanding, and the manner of a 3-0 win was another indication that Solskjaer is closer to recreating the United of old.

While Paul Pogba looks every inch the superstar in his Rolls Royce, Fernandes will stick with the Mini for now. With a baby boy on the way, however, he will have to upgrade soon.

Thanks to him, everyone at United is thinking bigger these days.




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Fighting

Inside the building of UFC's VERY ambitious Fight Island

350 tonnes of metal used, 18km of electrical cables and COMPLETE lockdown from July 2… Inside the building of UFC’s VERY ambitious Fight Island including an octagon on the BEACH

  • Constructing Fight Island has been enormous logistical undertaking for the UFC 
  • There are 10 square miles for organisation to use on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi 
  • A new video has been released showing the sheer scale of the operation 
  • There are three separate medical facilities being used by fighters before events
  • Once work has finished, the whole area will be completely locked down  

The incredible magnitude of the UFC’s Fight Island project has been revealed ahead of four upcoming events in Abu Dhabi. 

Forced to take drastic action by the coronavirus crisis, the organisation launched their ambitious plan to hold events on Yas Island, where 10 square miles have been set aside to to stage the shows. There’s even an octagon on the beach. 

And now a video has been released by the UFC, exposing the gigantic logistical undertaking with the frantic rush to have everything in place for the first event on July 12. 

A 10 square mile complex has been set up on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for the UFC to use 

There is even an octagon on the beach as part of the UFC’s takeover of the Abu Dhabi hot spot

The massive logistical undertaking will be completed soon, according to local organisers 

FIGHT ISLAND EVENTS: 

UFC 251 – July 12 

UFC Fight Night 172 – July 16 

UFC Fight Night – Benevidez vs Figueiredo II – July 19 

UFC Fight Night 174 – July 26 

The clip shows employees in hazmat suits taking temperatures of those accessing the UFC’s private 10-mile bubble. 

There has been extensive testing for coronavirus with 2004 tests completed so far and the company have 17 medical staff on site across three separate facilities. 

The venue itself is still under construction with 740 workers racing to complete the structure. 

More than 400,000 man hours have already gone into the job, 18km worth of cables fitted and a staggering 350 tonnes of metal used on the facility. 

In total 640,000 square metres have been covered by the building that will be home to the world’s leading MMA promotion in the coming weeks. 

UFC president Dana White added a video of his own, showing time lapse videos of the construction of the octagon on the beach, police checkpoints and even roads being built especially for the complex.  

Fight Island is located in an area of Abu Dhabi which has been described as a billionaire’s playground. 

Yas Marina Circuit is a sprawling race track has hosted the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in since 2009 and there is also a world class golf course near the beach.

Ferrari World, Seaworld Abu Dhabi – which is a project still under construction – and a huge water park are other attractions.

And now the island is home to the UFC for four events. It seems unlikely that the octagon on the beach will be used for the fights themselves and is merely a promotional tool. 

The temperature is oppressive in July and can reach highs of 42 degrees, averaging around 35 degrees, so an air conditioned arena is far safer for fighters to perform in. 

Local organisers say the construction is almost complete for the July 12 start with the other shows taking place on the 16th, 19th and 26th of the same month.

There are 17 medical staff at three separate facilities ensuring a sterile environment 

There are 400,000 man hours that have already gone into construction of the venue 

UFC president Dana White is hosting the events on the island as a grand contingency plan

UFC Fight Island Part 2!! I can’t wait to get there. #YasIsland #InAbuDhabi

A post shared by Dana White (@danawhite) on

‘When the handover happens from the team currently working on the site for the UFC Fight Island ‘bubble’ on July 2, then Fight Island is basically secured – the barricades are up and no one’s in or out,’ Saeed Al Saeed, destination marketing director told the National. 

‘Then we’ll start receiving the first international guests that will also undergo their set of precautionary measures. So July 2, the island goes into lockdown fully, which means from then we’ll be completely prepared to host the UFC. 

‘This is currently the safest place in the world, bar none,’ he said. ‘This is the first Covid-19-free bubble in the world, and we’re very proud to announce that’s coming out of Abu Dhabi.

‘I can’t imagine anyone going to such extreme ends to make sure the people that are involved in a singular event are safe and taken care of.’ 

The four events will be broadcast to the world but no fans will be allowed in the arena 

The UFC 251 card will be topped by Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns for the welterweight title

The fight cards due to take place on the island are stacked full of entertaining match-ups with three title contests at UFC 251, the first event. 

Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight crown against Gilbert Burns in the headline act, and is preceded by Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway for the featherweight belt. 

There’s also a bantamweight title on the line with Petr Yan fighting Jose Aldo while British favourite Darren Till meets Robert Whittaker on July 26.  




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Soccer

Manchester City will LEARN their European fate on July 13

Manchester City will learn their European fate on July 13 after they appealed two-year Champions League ban in three-day Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing last month

  • Manchester City have been locked in a battle with UEFA after their European ban
  • City were banned from Europe for two years for breaching Financial Fair Play
  • They appealed against the punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport
  • A three-day hearing was heard in Switzerland and over video conference

Manchester City are set to learn their European fate on July 13, Sportsmail understands.

Last season’s Premier League champions have been locked in a battle with UEFA after they were banned from European football for two years in February for breaches of the governing body’s Financial Fair Play rules.

They appealed against the punishment — which came with a 30million euros (£27m) fine — to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and a three-day hearing was heard in Switzerland and over video conference last month.

Manchester City have to wait until July 13 to find out whether the European ban will be upheld

At the time, CAS said that a verdict was likely to be published in the first half of July. However, it can be disclosed that parties have been told that July 13 will be D-day.

The verdict was expected on July 10, but UEFA are understood to have asked for it to be pushed back to avoid clashing with the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final which takes place on that date.

The result will be significant. Should the ban be upheld, City will have to persuade their star players, in particular, 29-year-old Kevin de Bruyne, to remain at the Etihad Stadium despite two years without European football. They will also miss out on the vast revenues that the Champions League brings.

Such a verdict would have the knock-on effect that City’s place in next season’s competition will go to the club which finishes in fifth place in the Premier League.

Should the ban remain, City will be desperate to keep hold of star players like Kevin de Bruyne

Should City’s appeal be successful, it will be seen as a landmark victory and serious questions of UEFA’s FFP system will be asked. A third option that the ban is cut is also a possibility.

City were found by UEFA to have committed ‘serious breaches’ of the rules between 2012 and 2016 following an investigation launched after Portuguese hacker Rui Pinto leaked documents including internal emails from the club to German media.

Following the announcement of the ban and fine they immediately announced their intention to appeal with chief executive Ferran Soriano stating that they had ‘irrefutable evidence’ to back up their case.

Pinto is currently under house arrest and is awaiting trial in Portugal.

Both Manchester City and UEFA declined to comment.

Chief executive Ferran Soriano insisted City had ‘irrefutable evidence’ to back up their appeal




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Soccer

CARLTON COLE: I hated the stigma that black players were just muscle

CARLTON COLE: I hated the stigma that black players were just muscle… the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Paul Pogba prove we also possess technical ability and footballing intelligence

  • For too long black players have tarnished with the stigma of being just muscle
  • Often they’re known for their power and not their technical ability of intelligence
  • The media play a massive role in the perceptions of players. It is subliminal

The stats from this study do not really surprise me. I’m not really a stats man but with certain things they are really good.

You can put the numbers in front of people and they can’t come back at you and question.

I hated the stigma that black players were just muscle. When you talk about how muscular a player is, it is black players who get that. They are known for being stronger than everyone else, known for their power and not their technical ability or footballing intelligence.


Carlton Cole says he hated the stigma that black players were just muscle instead of their skill

Former Bolton playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha was a perfect example of a black footballer with flair

Athletically, we are advanced and do have quick players but that doesn’t mean we haven’t got intelligent ones, too. When I was playing, we would start to see players coming from Africa – good midfielders such as Jay-Jay Okocha. He had flair but also lots of football intelligence. You can’t play at the level he did – and in the position he did – if you don’t have that.

Look at Paul Pogba now. He is intelligent, unbelievably skilful and has got the tricks but I often see just that he is big, strong, powerful and quick. But he is not actually overly quick, he is a technical player.

It is all down to perception and that’s how football is. You get put in a box and they don’t want you to come out of it. When I was younger, coming through at Chelsea, I was always big, quick and strong but I could play. We played with flair, ball on the ground skill. But when people wanted to buy me, it was just about pace and power.

Paul Pogba is another example of a brilliant technical footballer who is often stereotyped

What commentators keep on saying is what people hear, so everybody watching will agree. It is subliminal.

The media play a massive role in the perceptions of players. Whether you’re white or black, whether you’re a pundit or commentator, you have a role to play in improving this. You might have to go back to school to learn how to get it right. You have to be correct with what you say.

This is a new era and you have to move with the times – otherwise, you will become a dinosaur.




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Basketball

LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ was actually a fan suggestion submitted to Bill Simmons

One of LeBron James’ most controversial moments of his career came in 2010 when he made “The Decision” on live TV.

If you don’t remember, James was arguably the greatest free agent in NBA history. After playing seven seasons in Cleveland, he became an unrestricted free agent and was weighing his options on where he’d play next. But instead of a simple announcement, he hosted a 75-minute show that aired on ESPN, where he announced his NBA future and answered questions about his move.

But it turns out the idea wasn’t entirely his.

An ESPN documentary series titled “Backstory” focused on “The Decision” revealed the idea actually came from a fan who thought of it and sent the idea to ESPN’s Bill Simmons. The idea was posted in a mailbag column on Thanksgiving day in 2009. At the time, the fan was simply known as Drew from Columbus, Ohio. But ESPN’s documentary identified him as Drew Wagner.

Here’s Wagner’s full pitch to Simmons:

You know how when top recruits in basketball or football make their college decision, they often call a press conference and put the three hats of the schools that made the final three in front of them … then pick up the hat of the school of choice and put it on? What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called “LeBron’s Choice?” What type of crazy ratings would that get?

Simmons’ response showed he clearly loved the idea as he responded, “Regardless, you’re right — this should be a televised event. If LeBron were smart, he would market the event through his company, sell the rights to a network and reveal his choice on that show. … If people were willing to pay $44.99 for a UFC 106 card headlined by Jenna Jameson’s washed-up husband fighting a guy who hadn’t won in two years, I’m pretty sure they’ll pony up $44.99 for ‘Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict.'”

According to Don Van Natta Jr., who worked on “Backstory,” Simmons pitched the mailbag column idea to James’ inner circle and ESPN executives in February 2010. 

From Van Natta Jr.:

At the All-Star Game weekend in Dallas in February 2010, Simmons pitched the “LeBron’s Decision” idea to James’ business partner, Maverick Carter; James’ agent at the time, Leon Rose; and James’ advisor, William “World Wide Wes” Wesley. Simmons met with Rose and Wesley. “They both loved it,” Simmons later wrote in an email. “I mean, LOVED IT.” He also had a separate meeting with Carter. That weekend, Simmons enthusiastically pitched the idea to several senior ESPN executives.

Natta has more details on the how the event eventually came together.

As for Wagner, he didn’t know for sure if his letter to Simmons made an impact or not. Simmons did all of his work behind the scenes, so there was really no way of knowing for sure. But he told ESPN he had an idea all along.

“I always had in the back of mind that maybe I did kick this into some kind of gear,” Wagner said. “I don’t think I deserve anything from it or any credit. I’m sure plenty of people could have come up with that kind of idea and got the ball rolling. I’m also pretty sure some people would want to shoot the guy who came up with the idea.”

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