x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

MMA: Dubai and Global Fighting Championships spar over same date

Two events vie for recognition at the same time at different venues, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Action from the Hadi Rivandi-Fernando Cosenday fight from last year's Dubai Fighting Championship, which was held on May 4. Mike Young / The National
Action from the Hadi Rivandi-Fernando Cosenday fight from last year's Dubai Fighting Championship, which was held on May 4. Mike Young / The National

Perhaps it should be taken as a sign that mixed martial arts is finding its feet in the Emirates.

As Dubai prepares to host two separate fight events tomorrow night, a dispute between promoters is brewing, with both men embracing the type of braggadocio favoured by the likes of Dana White and Don King.

The fourth iteration of the Dubai Fighting Championship (DFC4) will take place at Madinat Jumeirah, while the Global Fighting Championship's second event (GFC2) will take place at the World Trade Centre. Both events are scheduled to start from 7pm.

Tam Khan, the chief executive at Tamari Promotions and the man behind DFC4, told The National there is not yet a large enough market for two events on the same evening.

He added, however, that he has no concerns regarding the scheduling clash hurting his attendance figures because "there is no comparison".

He expects the majority of the 3,000 seats at Mina A' Salam to be filled when Paul Daley, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight, enters the octagon.

"It's like comparing a Lamborghini and a Toyota Corolla or an F1 car and a go-kart," Khan said. "It's like me boxing with Mike Tyson in his prime; it's stupid.

"Don't mistake that for arrogance, that's just how it is. We are bringing world-class athletes to the UAE and [the GFC] are more involved with amateur fighters - which is no bad thing."

Amir Shafiypour, the managing partner at Golden Cage Promotions and founder of GFC, said he had signed a Dh3 million, five-event contract with the Trade Centre and cannot change the dates set without being forced to pay a penalty.

He said that organisers of DFC deliberately had chosen the May 10 date to be difficult, saying that the GFC had announced on March 7, after their most recent event, that the GFC would "have another fight for a shot at US$100,000" (Dh367,000) on May 10.

"The next day, DFC announced they would be having a fight on the 10th of May," Shafiypour said. "I called Mina A' Salam to ask if anybody had booked and nobody had booked it, so they were just doing it to cause problems for people. It makes no sense."

Helmi Landolsi, the business-development manager at Golden Cage, agreed the UAE market is too small to cater to two large-scale MMA events on the same evening, adding: "It would have been more appropriate for these guys to change the date. This is the way they want to play, though, which is fine.

"We don't mind; let the best win. We have a more structured approach; we plan ahead."

Khan said DFC4 has been eight months in the making and that, from his side at least, there is no animosity. "I wish them the best of luck," he added. "I hope their event is a great success, because it's good for the sport, at the end of the day. And if they want guest passes to our event, they can have them … They can leave their own event halfway through and come and see a real event."

No sporting fixture can be held in the emirate without the blessing of Dubai Sports Council. Yesterday, Ghazi Al Madani, DSC's sports tourism manager, said he has no issue with two events on the same night, but he conceded it was regrettable.

"The good thing about these events is that each has its own personalities and they each have their own fans," he said.

"People have the right to attend either event. So long as both events are full, and I believe they will be, then it's no issue."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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