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UFC set for return to China

Featured image credit: Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced its return to the Chinese market by scheduling an event in Shanghai on December 9.

The mixed martial arts promotion today (Wednesday) said UFC Fight Night Shanghai and the finals for Road to UFC Season 2 will take place at the newly renovated Shanghai Indoor Stadium, an arena located in the central Xuhui District, in cooperation with Shanghai Sports Federation and Xuhui District Sports Bureau.

Next month’s event will mark the UFC’s fourth in mainland China, representing a return to the city where the organisation made its debut. Mercedes-Benz Arena hosted the inaugural event on November 25, 2017, while the most recent fight card was held in Shenzhen in 2019.

The UFC has since been away from China due to COVID-19 and the country’s policy in tackling the global pandemic. However, the easing of tight restrictions at the end of last year has seen sports organisations return their events to the country.

UFC has a training and performance centre in Shanghai, with next month’s Fight Night Shanghai to feature four finale bouts for Season 2 of Road to UFC, a ‘win and advance’ tournament for Asia’s top MMA prospects.

The finals will take place on the preliminary card in front of a live arena crowd, where competitors will have the opportunity to deliver performances that will earn the winners UFC contracts.

Kevin Chang, UFC senior vice-president and head of Asia, said: “Our first UFC Shanghai event back in 2017 was a historic evening that broke records, created lasting memories, and announced UFC’s arrival in mainland China. We can’t wait to put on another incredible show for our passionate fans and showcase the next generation of UFC athletes from the country.

“To be able to host this event back where it all started, in this incredible city where we are headquartered and have made significant investments to change the sport, is a fitting way to write the next chapter of the growth of MMA in China.”

Once again, Endeavor China will serve as the official UFC event promoter in Shanghai. In September, sports and entertainment group Endeavor and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) closed a landmark deal to bring the sports entertainment property and the UFC under the TKO Holdings umbrella.

Sum Huang, CEO of Endeavor China, said: “Endeavor China’s partnership with UFC has been instrumental in the rapid growth of MMA in China, and we are proud to play a role in serving passionate combat sports fans across the country.

“Building on our successful debut in Shanghai in 2017, we are excited to bring another sensational event to the city and highlight the promising new wave of UFC athletes representing our country inside the rejuvenated Shanghai Indoor Stadium.”

The UFC’s return to China comes after it last month 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.

Saudi Arabia also 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.