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UFC extends Saudi commitment with Riyadh Season deal

Featured image credit: HE Turki Alalshikh

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has extended its Riyadh Season partnership, with plans in place to do likewise with fellow TKO Group-owned organisation WWE.

HE Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), made the announcement, stating that the agreement will see another UFC event brought to Saudi Arabia during Riyadh Season 2024-25.

In addition, Riyadh Season, the annual state-funded entertainment and sports festival, will also serve as sponsor for UFC 306 on September 14, the mixed martial arts promotion’s first event to be held at The Sphere in Las Vegas.

Alalshikh said in a statement: “This agreement is a continuation of Riyadh Season’s aims to host and partner with prominent and international events of mass interest.

“It also enhances our efforts for Riyadh Season to produce diverse content in order to engage and attract an even wider audience with different interests from around the world. UFC is the most prominent mixed martial arts organisation in the world and their platform of global fans is unrivalled.”

UFC president and CEO, Dana White, added: “By extending our partnership with Riyadh Season we can continue to bring even more incredible events to Saudi Arabia.”

UFC’s first event to take place in Saudi Arabia will be on June 22 at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. The UFC announced in October that it had agreed a hosting deal with the GEA.

The first event under the deal was originally set for March 2 as part of Riyadh Season, but it was postponed, reportedly due to concerns over the quality of the card. Revised plans for the event were announced in March.

While the UFC is making its first move into Saudi Arabia, its sister organisation, WWE, has long established ties in the Kingdom. WWE has staged shows in the country since 2014 and currently holds a deal to host two major events there per year.

Sports and entertainment group Endeavor and World Wrestling Entertainment in September closed a high-profile deal to bring the sports entertainment property and the UFC under the TKO Holdings umbrella.

On May 25, WWE will hold King and Queen of the Ring in Jeddah. Alalshikh told ESPN that an enhancement to the Kingdom’s existing agreement with WWE will be announced later this month. Specifically, Alalshikh is said to be looking to bring a WWE showpiece event to Saudi in the form of either WrestleMania or Royal Rumble.

He added: “We will do big things with the UFC and TKO.”