x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Getting to grips with UFC language

Arabic ears may not be accustomed to hearing translations for such brutal fight moves as the "triangle choke hold", the "clinch" or the "arm bar" technique.

ABU DHABI // Arabic ears may not be accustomed to hearing translations for such brutal fight moves as the "triangle choke hold", the "clinch" or the "arm bar" technique. But come April 10, Mohammed al Housani will have to express those and other devastating manoeuvres in Arabic for the first time, at the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) Invincible Abu Dhabi bout. As the sport's exclusive Arabic colour commentator, Mr al Housani, a 25-year-old Emirati, will take a seat alongside the event's official play-by-play analysts, Americans Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. The distinction of being selected to take "the best seat in the house", inches from the combatants in the caged Octagon, was not lost on Mr al Housani. He has followed mixed martial arts (MMA) events for more than a decade. "Really it's like a fairy tale for me because I've been watching Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg do it for a long time, and now I'm an announcer," he said today. "There's nobody who can fill the Arabic role and I feel that the English language population is more familiar with the sport than the Arabic speakers, so it's important for me to develop the sport of MMA in the Arabic region by speaking the language."

Finding his voice will not be an overwhelming challenge; Mr al Housani is an experienced jiu-jitsu analyst. He has broadcast in Arabic for Abu Dhabi Sports TV matches as well as last year's inaugural World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup. "I'm direct. I call it down the middle," he said of his style. "A lot of people are calling me the Joe Rogan of the UAE, or even the 'Mohammed Rogan', but hopefully I'll be myself with my own style and bring something different." He expects the trickiest aspect to be explaining the mechanics of what MMA fighters refer to as the "ground game", when fighters take each other to the mat to try to knock each other out, or "ground and pound". "As soon as the fighters go to the ground, if you show that to any casual viewer, they either make fun of them because of the position, or they're completely clueless because they think they're just stalling," Mr al Housani said. "People understand kickboxing and boxing, but I'll need to explain the ground game." A student of jiu-jitsu for three years, Mr al Housani has trained with MMA pros and legends such as Royce Gracie, Rolles Gracie, Daniel Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado and Rafael Mendes, the 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Champion. UFC and its promoters, Flash Entertainment, selected Mr al Housani as the Arabic analyst after he auditioned and submitted a CD of his interviews and colour commentary from jiu-jitsu tournaments. Apart from introducing the UFC's first Arabic announcer, the Invincible event also makes history by being the first open-air bout and the first UFC event in the Middle East. Arabic is not the first non-English language for the sport; commentary has been conducted before in Spanish and French. "Hopefully I'll represent my people well, the region well, and get people exposed to this sport," Mr al Housani said. UFC 112: Invincible will take place at a custom-built all-seat arena outside Ferrari World on Yas Island. Tickets are available from www.boxofficeme.com and the UFC stand at Marina Mall. Upper grandstand seats have already sold out.

mkwong@thenational.ae