After a four-year hiatus, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is returning to Abu Dhabi in April. TOAD has your essential guide to the martial art event.
Almost exactly four years after the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its Abu Dhabi debut, the mixed martial arts (MMA) event returns on April 11 to Du Arena on Yas Island for the first of five events scheduled throughout the region. As popular as it is notorious, it will be a major event this year – and the highlight is the headline fight between Antônio ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira – a former UFC Heavyweight champion (the most prestigeous title in the sport) – and Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson. The event is hosted in part by Flash Entertainment, which is a part owner of the UFC’s parent company Zuffa, LLC.
The CEO of Flash Entertainment, John Lickrish, says, ‘Mixed martial arts is becoming a worldwide sport and bringing the UFC back to Abu Dhabi will give people a chance to get close to their heroes.’
So, what is mixed martial arts? As the name implies, MMA is a form of combat that combines several forms of martial arts. It is a full contact sport that allows striking, such as punching and kicking, as well as grappling, which is where the challengers attempt to wrestle each other into submission.
The contemporary notion of MMA originated in the 1920s in Brazil with the Gracie Challenge, which was a fight designed to demonstrate that Brazilian jiu-jitsu was more effective than other forms of martial arts such as boxing, judo and karate. Later, in the 1970s, bouts of wrestling that combined different martial arts became popular in Japan.
In 1993, MMA took off in the US with the introduction of the UFC. The UFC started as a fighting event designed to determine the most effective martial art. From this beginning, fighters began to merge techniques from different disciplines, following the same transformation that had previously been seen in Brazil and Japan. UFC events quickly gained popularity after being broadcast on pay-per-view television, and later attracted a more mainstream audience after featuring on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter.
Abu Dhabi rolls with the punches
The UFC debuted in Abu Dhabi on April 10, 2010. The event, UFC 112: Invincible, was held on Yas Island at a temporary outdoor concert arena – where Du Arena now stands. This marked the first time a UFC event
was held in an outdoor arena.
As the UFC originated as an American event, the time difference made it difficult to promote the sport on live television in the UAE – so it has taken the past four years to develop enough momentum to successfully bring it back. Now, however, anticipation has mounted and the UFC is back with plans for more events across the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The event on April 11 will feature Minotauro fighting Big Country who, despite beating UFC belt holders Brad Imes and Fabiano Scherner, has yet to claim a belt for himself.
Big Country says, ‘Antônio fights to the finish, he doesn’t just run the clock. He’s an old-school fighter and I’m excited to prove myself against a legend.’
Bag a ticket for the event to find out if Big Country stands a fighting chance against his competitor.
UFC Fight Night, Dhs295, Du Arena, Yas Island, tickets available at www.ticketmaster.ae (800 86823).
Fight the good fight
Try mixed martial arts here...
• Abu Dhabi Muay Thai and Capoeira Club
This club hosts classes in Muay Thai, a martial art from Thailand that is commonly used in MMA fighting, as well as kickboxing, boxing and MMA. Membership starts at Dhs500 per month.
Cinema Building, Najda Street, Al Markaziyah (02 676 9658).
• Cobra Muay Thai/Boxing
Previously located in Zayed Sports City, this gym offers Muay Thai and boxing classes as well as personal fitness training. Classes start at Dhs70 per session.
Al Bandar (055 616 0996).
• Team Nogueira Dubai
Train with one of the stars of the UFC. This gym and MMA/Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy is owned and run by Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. It offers fitness programmes such as boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and circuit training, as well as classes dedicated specifically to MMA. Membership starts at Dhs349 per month.
Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai (04 338 8967).