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Tue 3 Sep 2019 08:58 AM

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'Big fights' headed to Abu Dhabi in the future, says UFC's Dana White

UFC president Dana White said he believes UAE fighters will soon begin appearing on UFC fight cards

'Big fights' headed to Abu Dhabi in the future, says UFC's Dana White
UFC president Dana White

The now “close connection” between Abu Dhabi and UFC will see the city host more “big fights” in the future, according to UFC president Dana White.

At UFC 242 this weekend, Khabib Nurmagomedov will battle Justin Poirier to try retain his status as UFC’s lightweight champion as part of a five-year partnership between the fight promotion and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi).

“We have a really close connection with Abu Dhabi because we’ve already been there a few times, and the fights we’ve done there before,” White said.

The UFC president added that “the people of the UAE have been so good to the UFC. We are going to continue to come back and bring big fights to the Middle East.”

Abu Dhabi government-owned Flash Entertainment previously owned 10 percent stake in UFC, which it bought in 2010, before selling for an undisclosed sum last year.

In an exclusive interview, Flash Entertainment CEO John Lickrish told Arabian Business, "After almost 10 years the time was right to exit that investment." 

Though the financial details are not known, UFC was sold for $4bn in 2016 to a group of investors headed by talent agency WME/IMG. At that time Flash Entertainment kept its stake.

Abu Dhabi’s ‘Showdown Week’ programme also includes a two-night concert series featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers and reggaeton star J Balvin, as well as other musicians and DJs who will be performing at pool, beach and after parties.

“I am looking forward to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Wednesday and I am looking forward to the fight on Saturday,” White added. “On top of that, Abu Dhabi is a very cool city and I have a lot of things lined up to do during the week.”

White also said that he, along with former UFC fighters Matt Serra and Din Thomas, are going to “cruise around and do an episode of ‘Looking for a Fight’ (an MMA reality television show)”.

“We are going to do all the cool things that the city has to offer,” he said.

Middle East champions

Additionally, White said that he believes that in the near future, athletes from the UAE and the wider Middle East will begin appearing on UFC fight cards and claiming UFC belts.

“Since we have done events in Abu Dhabi, and it happens everywhere we go, it kick-starts the market, gyms pop up and people are training. Talent is coming out of the area,” he said.

“I won’t be surprised - I said this about England, I said this about Australia, Canada and every country we have gone to - there will be a champion from the Middle East probably within the next six to seven years.”

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online