Top MMA exponent eyes UAE take-off for sport

Ex-fighter Riadh ‘Rio’ Al Ta’ei outlines how to draw more nationals into sport

Gulf News

Dubai: UAE-based mixed martial arts (MMA) expert Riadh ‘Rio’ Al Ta’ei hopes the country will soon have a governing body for the sport in order to help it grow.

MMA has received a boost in the emirates with the Global Fighting Championship (GFC) being held at Dubai World Trade Centre on Thursday night. And the rapidly growing sport will also be on the region’s TV screens from Friday as Physique TV will launch its ‘MMA All Out’ programme — the Middle East’s only MMA show offering analysis and commentary on top international match-ups.

Al Ta’ei — who is a former MMA fighter, holder of many martial arts black belts, a PhD in marketing and a self-defence coach — will host ‘MMA All Out’ along with model and television personality Jory Bakr and martial arts expert Ali Mokded.

And he has high hopes for the sport in the UAE if it can cash in on this week’s developments. “The success of a sport depends a lot on the local sportsmen and we have some very promising MMA fighters among UAE nationals,” he told Gulf News.

“The UAE nationals certainly love to watch MMA fights while some even practice it. There are several competitions here for UAE fighters where we we have seen fighters such as Ali Al Ahli show a lot of promise.

“But, like anything else, they often do not pursue the sport. Maybe this is because of the lack of progression and there is no proper structure yet.

“Recently the UAE Kickboxing Federation started giving belts to people who know how to teach and train and this is the right direction. Be it boxing or any of the other of the MMAs, people love to watch these sports. But there is no proper structure and a proper governing body would help a lot.

“Numerous Shaikhs are involved with its promotion, with General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, leading the way.

“In the next five years, I can only see this sport getting better and the UAE will be one of the major players in MMA.

“When I participated 20 years back, this was a relatively new sport. The rules were not as definitive as they are today. Admittedly, MMA is comparatively new here, and I believe the ‘MMA All Out’ show will bridge this gap and explain the rules to fans.”

The new show will kick-off with a 24-hour ‘MMA All Out’ marathon starting at 11.30pm UAE time on Friday.

Peter Einstein, General Manager of Physique TV, said: “We are very excited to be presenting the region’s first marathon coverage of MMA. Our viewers will enjoy the best MMA match-ups from around the world, presented by experts in the sport. We don’t want anyone to miss a minute of the action, with commentary breaking down the KOs, submissions and techniques.”

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