The UFC has been holding events in two designated locations since the pandemic shut down major live sporting events. We have UFC Fight Island (Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) and the UFC APEX Center in Las Vegas, NV. The locations are obviously different, but so is the octagon that the fighters compete in.
When fighters walk into the cage in Abu Dhabi, they enter the regular 30 ft. cage. However, the cage at the Apex Center is a smaller, 25 ft. cage. It seems currently, that fighters prefer the regular size octagon. But fans, they would like to see fights contested in the smaller cage.
There are advantages and disadvantages when fighting in the smaller octagon, lets start with the positive.
The smaller octagon allows strikers to use cage as part of their takedown defense. When a fighter is a position to get taken down, they have a smaller distance to scramble to get their back to the cage to prevent the takedown. The biggest advantage to the smaller cage is the fights are more action-packed or should I say, “fan-friendly.” Fighters are forced to engage rather than circling their way around the cage to avoid being in what can be perceived as a brawl.
Lastly and more important there is a chance that with more action and fighter engagement, decisions will be lessened and finishes will be more likely.
Now let’s look at the disadvantages.
The smaller cage curbs strategy for some fighters. If a fighter relies on movement and space, fighting in the smaller cage limits some of their game plan execution. Although the smaller octagon is perceived as fan-friendly or action-packed, some will say it takes away from the art and craft of mixed martial arts by allowing fights to become more of a brawl, compared to a technical fight.
Dana White is not a fan of the smaller octagon and his reason has nothing to do with the fight inside of the cage. He prefers the bigger cage due to how it looks on TV. The bigger cage is more pleasing to the viewer and allows for more camera angles for the viewing audience.
As long as the product inside the cage is good, fans will be happy with the regular size octagon or smaller version. In reality, the fighters and their competitive spirit will always out shine the size of the cage they are fighting in.