x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fight is on to promote martial arts

Things will only improve for local fans with yesterday's announcement that the capital will now be home to the Middle East's first professional MMA tournament.

ABU DHABI // It has been a promising start to the year for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans and things only look set to improve with yesterday's announcement that the capital will now be home to the Middle East's first professional MMA tournament. The Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship (ADFC) will kick off the first of its three-date event on May 14 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).

At stake is a Dh1 million purse for the winner, a championship belt, and for the first time, a serious platform for local MMA talent, both Emiratis and expatriates, to display their skills. With UFC 112: Invincible just three weeks away and Abu Dhabi's Flash Entertainment having recently bought a 10 per cent share in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), there has never been a better time to promote the sport, agreed Abdelrahman Mohamed, of event organisers I See Events.

"We are riding the wave" said Mohamed. "The long-term aim is to promote local fighters, promote the sport regionally and educate the public. "A lot of people think MMA is a violent sport because they see the cage and two guys fighting, but many don't know the intense training and dedication these fighters have put in." The headline event, sanctioned by the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation, will be an open-weight championship tournament that will see eight international fighters battling it out in four bouts of three, five-minute rounds, to make it through to the next date, which is yet to be confirmed.

Five local fighters, including the Emirati hopeful, Hassan al Rumaithi, and the Dubai-based fighter and trainer Tam "The Brown Bomber" Khan, will take on international fighters from countries including Poland and Brazil. @Email:loatway@thenational.ae