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Asia

UFC’s extended Abu Dhabi deal to open up MENA events

Featured image credit: UFC

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has extended its longstanding events deal with Abu Dhabi through an expanded contract that will also take in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The deal between the mixed martial arts promotion and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) runs through to 2028 and will continue to see the UFC bring one numbered event featuring a championship bout to the Emirate every year. It comes ahead of the sold-out UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2, which is set to take place tomorrow (Saturday) at Etihad Arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

The two parties said the new partnership will also expand to include additional Fight Night events, which will take place across the MENA region. Saudi Arabia last week further expanded its growing sports events portfolio with the announcement that it will host its first UFC card next year.

The Fight Night event will take place on March 2 as part of the Riyadh Season festival. The UFC signed the deal with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, but other events for the MENA region have yet to be detailed. Speaking at a press conference yesterday (Thursday), UFC CEO Dana White said the promotion is in talks with Egypt and Qatar, among other destinations, regarding hosting Fight Nights.

UFC has a longstanding relationship with Abu Dhabi, with 18 events having been held in the region since 2010. The two sides entered into a formal partnership in 2019 calling for one pay-per-view event per year through until 2023.

That partnership was deepened further as Abu Dhabi hosted three separate series of Fight Island events during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when sport around the world was shutting down, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island was transformed to create a safe and secure location for international athletes to compete.

“Bringing UFC to Abu Dhabi each year has proved hugely popular, with MMA fans coming to the emirate from all over the world to watch the biggest and best fights in the sport,” said HE Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi.

“Over a 15-year relationship, UFC has extended its global reach and Abu Dhabi has established itself as a world capital for combat sports. Renewing our partnership with UFC allows us to continue to stage major events that thrill visitors and residents. We are excited to extend the relationship and innovate together to grow this sport in the UAE and wider region.”    

White added: “Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite places in the world; the people, the restaurants, the hotels, it’s incredible. I have been so excited to be able to put on some of the biggest fights in the history of UFC in Abu Dhabi and it’s only going to get even bigger from here with additional Fight Nights coming to the region next year.”

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