x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Organisers hope for some nuance – not just gore

Organisers are hoping there will also be enough skill and technique on show to win over the sport's sceptics.

ABU DHABI // While the line-up for this weekend's Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship (ADFC) is guaranteed to deliver plenty of blood and beatings, organisers are hoping there will also be enough skill and technique on show to win over the sport's sceptics.

The region's first mixed martial arts organisation's Dh1 million prize money has lured some of the sport's most respected rising stars to the capital but still faces the challenge of winning over the public.

"Here it's a very peaceful culture and society so it's very hard for a lot of people to grasp the idea of two men in a cage, fighting," said Randall Yogachandra, the chief operating officer at iSee. "They just see brutality."

Echoing the words of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White - who brought the UFC's first live event to the capital last year - Yogachandra said "education" would be key to its long-term success.

"[We have to] show them that there is skill and technique, that these guys have been training since they were kids and there is a science to it. That they are friends after the fight," he said.

Despite a relatively modest turn-out for round one in May, those who did attend were treated to an impressive production and explosive fights.

Since then, ADFC has compiled a database of 300 fighters - local and international - from which to select those it feels are exciting and talented enough to use the event as a platform for "bigger and better things".

Organisers hope the placing of international fighters with proven skills from around the world, such as Bupesh Kamble, from India, and Vaughn Anderson, of Canada, will also attract the world's attention.

ADFC's long-term goal, Yogachandra told journalists, was to develop into a world-wide organisation.

"To be successful you have to go international, but right now we need to build the foundations here in the UAE," he said.