By Gavin Gibbon
Ali Al Shaiba, executive director, DCT-Abu Dhabi, revealed plans to make the UAE capital a hub for sports and events
Ali Al Shaiba, executive director, DCT-Abu Dhabi, believes “the sky is the limit” when it comes to hosting huge global events in the UAE capital.
Abu Dhabi made history on Sunday when it hosted the inaugural UFC Fight Island event, with three titles on the line on the opening night – UFC 251 – and further fights planned through to July 26.
It formed part of a five-year agreement with the UFC to bring regular bouts to the city, with the potential for a similar set-up later in the year.
The emirate already hosts the final leg on the F1 Grand Prix calendar and attracts some of the very best names in the world of tennis each year for the Mubadala Championships, while the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship brings in top golfers and thousands of spectators.
Asked whether there were plans to bring more world class sports to Abu Dhabi, Al Shaiba revealed discussions were ongoing, although he remained tight-lipped, only saying: “There is nothing confirmed yet, but there are a few sports that will be on the list for the future.”
However, after the hugely successful opening card from the UFC Fight Island, it is clear the potential and the desire is there.
He added: “The sky is the limit. Today we have a vision, we have a plan, to make Abu Dhabi the hub for different kinds of sports and big events. We have a lot of proposals on the table that we are studying and hopefully you will hear good news very soon.”
An 11km stretch of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island has been locked off to the public as part of a ‘safe zone’ for the UFC Fight Island, which is currently home to more than 2,500 people for the four events.
The zone contains the fight venue and training facilities as well as several hotels and restaurants, and access is strictly controlled.
Al Shaiba hoped that the efforts, which have gone into hosting the event safely on Yas Island, can act as a catalyst for further sports to consider Abu Dhabi in the future as well as for visitors looking to come to the city.
He said: “If you look into the crew that comes from the UFC through different destinations, there are around 1,000 delegates who came to Abu Dhabi and most of them are coming for the first time.
“This is a good trial for them, they want to try Abu Dhabi for the first time, they want to see Abu Dhabi for the first time and this will be an opportunity for them to go back home and talk to their families about Abu Dhabi, to their friends, what they have seen and the hospitality in Abu Dhabi, the quality of life and the quality of the services.”