x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

MMA: Abu Dhabi Warriors plan another event in February

The first show of the new promotion, organised by UAE Jiu-Jitsu, was a success despite a few glitches.

Maro Perak, left, beat the favourite Travis Wiuff in the main event of the Abu Dhabi Warriors Fighting Championship. Mike Young / The National
Maro Perak, left, beat the favourite Travis Wiuff in the main event of the Abu Dhabi Warriors Fighting Championship. Mike Young / The National

Abu Dhabi // Abu Dhabi Warriors are planning to hold their next major fight card in February in the capital, after getting an encouraging response to their first event.

The new promotion, set up by UAE Jiu-Jitsu, brought some high-quality mixed-martial arts fighters - if not the top names - from around the world for nine fights across several weight categories.

Given that Formula 1 was in town, as well as various entertainment alternatives, a surprisingly sizeable and well-informed crowd turned up at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (there was particularly voluble support for the Brazilian fighters) and although no official figures were available, organisers were estimating a figure close to 2,500.

"I think it went very well," Lubomir Guedjev, the managing director at Abu Dhabi Warriors, said. "I wasn't expecting so many people to come with so much on this weekend but I was pleasantly surprised by how many turned up."

There were glitches. The event was to be broadcast live and streamed live, although ultimately neither went ahead; organisers said it was shown with a delay. Some fighters from the US could not make it, though given Hurricane Sandy was the cause, that was unavoidable.

The quality of the fights - ultimately the truest judge of any card - was variable, although that is to be expected of a first tournament.

"Overall there were some really good fights and some that weren't so great but for a first event I think they did a great job," the head referee John McCarthy said. "Production did a great job with it and they put on a great event for the people."

The talk over the last couple of days has been of the promotion's next card possibly being staged on Yas Island - where UFC held its only event in the Emirates in 2010 - but Guedjev appears keenly aware that improvements would need to be made in time for that.

"There were four very good fights, and four that could've been better but there were no rubbish fights, no mismatches. The next card we're planning in February and we're already starting work on it.

"We're thinking of where and how we can do it at an even better level. We want to attract even better fighters and to improve the show even more. Everything could be better next time."

One of the key factors to the success of the MMA here may lie in the promotion's ability to unearth Emirati talent. There were a couple of UAE-based fighters, last-minute inclusions because of the late withdrawals, but both hail from Brazil.

McCarthy said it needs to be done "to get more people taking that first step into the sport here". Guedjev recognises it as well, saying that a fair bit is already being done to produce that first fighter.

"We're really hoping to attract local fighters," he said.

"We have provided that support, we are teaching jiu-jitsu in many clubs through the country. We have facilities, we have support, we're just hoping people start showing more interest now."