Jan Blachowicz defends UFC light heavyweight title on points over Israel Adesanya
Jan Blachowicz defends UFC light heavyweight title on points over Israel Adesanya Image Credit: UFC Twitter

UFC light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz is hoping Abu Dhabi continues to be his “lucky place” as he prepares to defend his title against the division’s No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira in the headline fight at UFC 267 at Etihad Arena on Saturday night.

Blachowicz became an Abu Dhabi fan favourite in September 2020 when he beat Dominick Reyes on UFC Fight Island to win the title. Since then, he has successfully defended his belt against Israel Adesanya.

Ahead of his return to the Abu Dhabi octagon this weekend for the first time since his historic victory over Reyes, which saw him become the first UFC champion from Poland, Blachowicz said: “I’m happy to be here again, it’s a lucky place for me. I became a champion here so it’s a happy place for me.”

His opponent, Teixeira, however, is in relaxed mood ahead of his shot at the title inside Etihad Arena on Saturday, which marks the return to full-capacity events in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the pandemic.

“I feel great man. I’ve seen this place on TV since I was a kid and now to be here fighting in a UFC main event it’s something else,” said the American fighter. “My mindset is composed, I’m calm. Two more days to go and I’m ready.”

Amanda Ribas, who takes on Virna Jandiroba in the only women’s fight on the card, has backed Abu Dhabi’s bid to become a recognised capital of MMA.

“It’s amazing, I watch it on TV all the time. MMA and fights are always going on here and it’s awesome. This place breathes fights and that’s amazing for me as a fighter,” said the Brazilian.

The strawweight fighter is also looking forward to experiencing all Abu Dhabi has to offer: “I hope I can go Ferrari World or Warner Bros World. I’ve seen a lot of places to go but this time I am firstly focused on my fight. I’m looking forward to the audience and the arena.”

Russian Peter Yan, who will take on Corey Sanhagen in an interim bantamweight title fight in the co-main event, added: “Abu Dhabi already has a lot of great events here and gives opportunities to fighters from all over the world to compete here so it’s a great thing to do and I only wish good luck to Abu Dhabi to continue with this passage.

“I’m glad to be back. For me it’s [Abu Dhabi is] a historical place. You know, I won my belt here so it’s important to be here again,” added Yan who beat Jose Aldo, on UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, in July 2020, to claim the bantamweight title.

Dan Hooker, who returns to the Etihad Arena octagon after losing out to debutant Michael Chandler at UFC 257 in January, has high hopes for his fight and for Abu Dhabi’s MMA aspirations.

“I obviously spent some time here earlier this year and just things are really going you know, there’s obviously fighters from all over the world training and living here in the UAE so I feel like it’s definitely going to become a mecca for mixed martial arts in the future,” Hooker said.

On his fight, he added: “You’ve just got to come in and control the things you can’t control it and just give it everything. You will never regret holding anything back and just put my best foot forward and enter with everything I’ve got.

Hooker’s opponent Islam Makachev is looking to make it 10 wins in a row and will be hoping a strong following in Abu Dhabi will work in his favour.

“I have a strong fan base in Abu Dhabi. There are lots of people coming from Russia and Azerbaijan to see watch e fight in here. I feel really comfortable to fight in Abu Dhabi because it is like home, especially because of the strong fan base.”