Beauty, beasts on UAE’s new MMA show

We go behind the scenes with the presenters and crew behind the massively popular MMA All Out show on Physique TV.

From left, co-hosts Ali Mokdad, Rio Altaie and Jory Bakr of MMA All Out, the UAE programme on the Physique television channel centred on mixed martial arts. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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MMA All Out is the Dubai-based health and fitness channel Physique TV’s contribution to the growing regional mixed martial arts landscape, and, according to the show’s hosts, it’s offering a mix that no one else in the region currently does: the best international content and in-depth analysis from experts in the field, all in Arabic.

“People confuse MMA with just fighting. We’re different – we don’t just commentate, we analyse,” says the show’s host Rio Altaie, himself an accomplished martial artist who was the first to bring Brazilian jiu-jitsu to Dubai and now has a string of dojos (training centres) across the city.

“The last fight we covered, for example, we could tell the fighter needed a bit more experience – he made the mistake of arguing with the judge.”

He adds: “We discuss the mental the side, too. It’s not just about who’s strongest. Prepare mentally and you can win physically. That’s what we try and bring to the show.”

Growing sport

“We cover a whole host of promotions from all around the world, too,” says Altaie. “Even fights with kids as young as 16, where we try and spot future champions, and we bring in fighters from the region and talk about things like how to drop weight, so we have all the big international spin, but we’re also in Arabic and give viewers a taste of the local market.”

The show’s co-host, Ali Mokdad, another martial artist who is still competing in regional tournaments, adds: “It’s educational, too. All the fans know UFC, but that’s just one promotion. We try and educate about the whole sport and different aspects of martial arts and cover a huge variety of promotions.

“MMA is growing in the region, especially now [that] Sheikh Tahnoon has put his weight behind it [the Abu Dhabi sheikh is a jiu-jitsu black belt and huge supporter of MMA in the UAE]. Our last Dubai Fighting Championship event sold out the Madinat Arena and I can only see the show getting bigger. Other shows are sure to come along, but we’re pleased to have our foot in the door first.”

Layman’s eye

The third member of the show’s hosting trio is the model and presenter Jory Bakr.

Unlike her colleagues, Bakr has no background in the MMA world, and she sees her role on the show as the one who brings a layman’s eye to her counterparts’ in-depth analysis.

“I used to watch MMA, especially UFC, but I’m certainly not a fighter. I picked this show because I love sport, and I knew the guys from training. It works really well, as we’re so comfortable working together,” she says. “I try and bring in a simple view and make it clear and nice and easy for the audience to understand what’s going on.”

Altaie adds: “You’ve heard of yin and yang? Well, we’re yin, yang and yong. We complete each other and there’s a nice feel about the show. Ali and I kind of ping-pong off each other, then Jory comes in and sees it from the viewer’s point of view.

“Plus, she has 100,000 followers on Twitter, so if we pick up 10 per cent of them we’re winning – it’s a question of beauty and the beasts!”

More than hosts

Altaie says that the team see themselves almost as missionaries for the spread of MMA more than simple TV show presenters.

“It takes time to grow these things, but we’re on a personal mission started by my friend and mentor Tam Khan [the former fighter credited with bringing MMA to the region] and we’re his soldiers now.”

The mission seems to be having some success. The show’s producer and director Adam Samdi admits that, before working on the show, he thought MMA was “disgusting”, but his view has changed with experience.

“When you start watching and get to know the real spirit, you get to understand that it’s much more than just fighting,” he says.

“There’s a real art to it. It really gets quite interesting.”

• MMA All Out screens on Physique TV at 11.30pm, Saturday through Wednesday

cnewbould@thenational.ae