Dubai: After a gap of four years the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) will finally return to the UAE in September this year with a potentially explosive headline act featuring two of the sport’s most exhilarating fighters.
Abu Dhabi is the venue and the headline act of a yet-to-be announced UFC 242 fight-card features a mouth-watering contest when Russian Khabib Nurmagomedo defends his lightweight (155-lb) title against interim champion Dustin Poirier of the USA.
The Eagle vs The Diamond is arguably one of the biggest MMA fights of the year and it is happening on September 7, at the Yas Arena.
The well-supported Khabib has already become something of a local hero in the UAE following his brutal submission victory over Irish fighter Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in October last year and visits to the country last year when he even made an appearance at Arabian Gulf League side Al Wahda’s Al Nahyan Stadium.
The devout Muslim triggered the excitement and anticipation of a mega UFC fight in the UAE when he took to Twitter to comment on Porier’s victory over Max Holloway.
“I don’t agree with the judges 49:46, I got a draw, my respect to both fighters, and Porier’s achievement so far cannot be denied, my congratulations Dustin, see you in September,’ he said on @TeamKhabib
Poirier, a long-time underdog put himself in the spotlight when he recorded a thumping centre-stage Interim Championship win over Max Holloway in Atlanta, USA.
“Grit. Determination. The right amount of crazy. Self-belief. Everything it takes to be a champion, I have that,” said Poirier insisting that he has the skills set to take on Khabib.
UFC 242 will be the first event by the Dana White-managed consortium since 2014 when a Fight Night headlined by Roy Nelson’s KO of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira took place in Abu Dhabi
The promotion’s only PPV event also took place in Abu Dhabi in 2010 when Frankie Edgar scored a controversial upset over BJ Penn in the main event and Anderson Silva scored a decision victory over Demian Maia.
Meanwhile, Ebrahim Al Hosani, the first Emirati jiu-jitsu referee, reacted to the prospect of seeing the Khabib fight in the flesh and said: “If Khabib comes to the UAE it is something amazing for us because he is world champion in his division,”
“We would be very proud if he comes here. His last fight was in the US and we would wake up at 6am to watch his fights.
“This is something important for the world, not just the UAE. Khabib, you are welcome here and this is your home,” Al Hosani said on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu World Pro championships.
UAE national team fighter Saoud Al Hammadi echoed those sentiments.
“Khabib this is your country and you are most welcome my friend,” he said. “We want you to be here, to train with you and support you in your fight.”
In 2010, Shaik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, best known to MMA fans as the man who founded the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC), acquired a share of UFC. People who own shares in the UFC include actors Ben Affleck. Sylvester Stallone and Mark Wahlberg, musicians Calvin Harris and LL Cool J, and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.