x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fight club here to stay in Abu Dhabi

UFC 112: Invincible is just the start of the UAE's affair with mixed martial arts as promoters plan to stage an annual billing.

BJ Penn, below, is one of the main attractions at UFC 112 which will be held on Yas Island next month. Organisers of the event hope to hold it in the capital on an annual basis.
BJ Penn, below, is one of the main attractions at UFC 112 which will be held on Yas Island next month. Organisers of the event hope to hold it in the capital on an annual basis.

ABU DHABI // The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is destined to become a permanent part of the country's sporting calendar after both promoters who brought it to the capital said they were working towards an annual Mixed Martal Arts (MMA) spectacular. In fact, UFC bosses in the United States offered Flash Entertainment, the Abu Dhabi events company, the chance to host an another fight night in December, but it had to be turned down due to a full schedule. With just over five weeks to go before the April 10 UFC112: Invincible event gets underway at a 11,800-seat arena at Ferrari World on Yas Island, Dana White, the UFC president, revealed it was just the beginning.

"When we go to somewhere new and it's a success, we then want to make it an annual event," he said. "It was the first thing Lorenzo [Fertitta, the UFC's co-owner] said to me after the press conference which announced UFC112," said John Lickrish, the managing director of Flash Entertainment - which acquired a 10 per cent stake in the UFC's parent company Zuffa LLC in January, and is be tasked with maximising commercial opportunities in Asia.

"He said: 'When do you think the next event should be held? We should push for December'." While Flash's existing end-of-year schedule has minimised the prospect of a equal in 2010, Lickrish insisted yearly bills are the objective. "Whether we were the 10 per cent owners or not, Flash would be looking at repeat events," he said. "There is no point in doing something once. The amount of effort it takes to get things going in the first place, especially considering we don't have a ready-made venue, are leading to an annual event."

Future UFC shows could take place in an not-yet built multi-purpose entertainment venue in the capital. sports@thenational.ae