The Ultimate Fighting Championship has reached an agreement to hold events in Abu Dhabi for the next five years, the promotion announced Monday.
The deal will begin with UFC 242, which will take place on Sept. 7 in the United Arab Emirates Capital City. According to a release, each of the five upcoming events will feature at least one championship fight. Bouts and a venue for UFC 242 were not immediately revealed. It has been rumored that lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his belt against Dustin Poirier on the card, but that matchup is far from official.
“We are making a long-term commitment to Abu Dhabi because we have had great success in that market,” said UFC President Dana White. “The demand from our fans to bring UFC back to Abu Dhabi has been overwhelming, and over the next five years, DCT Abu Dhabi will help us deliver some spectacular UFC championship fights to the UAE. I’m very excited about this partnership and what it will mean for the growth of this sport and for UFC in the region.”
The UFC’s partnership is with the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), and is part of the Advantage Abu Dhabi program, which is designed to attract festivals, sporting events and other initiatives to the area by “increasing the overall value proposition of the destination by providing an array of support services throughout the event planning cycle.”
“Abu Dhabi is now firmly established as a unique tourism destination which offers a diverse mix of activities and initiatives that cater to all kinds of audience and visitors,” said HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi. “The emirate also has a strong affiliation with world-class sporting events, such as the FIFA World Club Cup, the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Red Bull Air Race, and now this deal to bring UFC here allows us to once again show our ability to stage major events that thrill visitors and residents alike.
“UFC will become a key component of Abu Dhabi’s thriving events calendar for the next five years, which is already packed full of not only great sporting events, but also cultural, arts and entertainment offerings as well,” he continued. “This spectacular mixed martial arts event, which has a huge following around the world, will bring heightened impetus to visitation in the third quarter for the emirate and will no doubt boost incoming tourist numbers as fight fans across the world gather in Abu Dhabi.”
The Las Vegas-based promotion hasn’t been to Abu Dhabi since April 11, 2014, when UFC Fight Night 39 took place at Du Arena and saw Roy Nelson defeat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via first-round knockout in the evening’s headliner. Approximately four years prior, the company debuted in Abu Dhabi with UFC 112 at Ferrari World Concert Arena. There, Anderson Silva defended the middleweight crown with a five-round verdict over Demian Maia in the evening’s headliner, while Frankie Edgar outpointed B.J. Penn to capture lightweight gold in the co-main event.