UAE's first official World Wrestling Championship to take place in Dubai

WrestleFest DXB returns on Saturday — and the winner will represent the UAE internationally

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Dubai’s only live wrestling show is back with a bang on Saturday — and the stakes have never been higher for the city’s grapplers.

The WrestleFest DXB tournament, taking place in Al Quoz, will see 14 competitors battle it out in the ring to be named the first Dubai World Wrestling Champion, after the Dubai Sports Council gave its stamp of approval in May.

The new accreditation means the event will be the city’s first internationally accredited wrestling championship, with the winner going on to represent the emirate both at home and abroad.

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We were really nervous before the May event because we knew the sports council was attending and that it could lead to big things
Mohammad Al Shehhi, founder of WrestleFest DXB

“The accreditation is massive in terms of recognising wrestling as a competitive sport,” says Mohammad Al Shehhi, the founder of WrestleFest DXB and the first Emirati wrestler to represent the UAE overseas.

“Now the eyes of the wrestling world are on Dubai and the pressure is mounting. Whoever wins the belt will have the opportunity to defend the title in Dubai and internationally.

“It’s a massive progression for the wrestling scene in the region and a huge badge of honour for whoever takes the belt.”

Al Shehhi, 27, whose wrestling name is Shaheen — Arabic for falcon — will be joined by wrestlers from India, Pakistan, Sweden, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the US and the UK during Saturday’s tournament, titled WrestleFest DXB: Fahrenheit 971, at Warehouse Four.

Mohammad Al Shehhi, right, is confident he can win the next match and become the first Dubai World Wrestling Champion. Photo: WrestleFest DXB

The inaugural event in March, and the following tournaments in May and June all sold out, attracting crowds of more than 200 people and wowing the Dubai Sports Council in the process.

“We were really nervous before the May event because we knew the sports council was attending and it could lead to big things, but we never expected it to move so quickly,” says Al Shehhi. “To have them champion us is a real honour.”

For Al Shehhi, winning the title would be the highlight of his wrestling career and to represent the UAE would be a “dream come true” following three years of tireless promotion in the region.

The fitness enthusiast, who has represented the UAE at matches in the UK, the US and Pakistan, first established a wrestling academy where amateurs can train and have matches, called WrestlingME, which is still running in Al Quoz.

Initially, the in-house events were attended by 15 to 20 people, mainly his friends and family. However, soon videos of the matches Al Shehhi had posted on Instagram and YouTube began attracting attention.

“I was invited to matches in the UK and the US; to be the first Emirati to compete overseas felt incredible. I wanted to pave the way for others to do the same,” he says.

“After Covid-19, I knew I had to do something to take the academy to the next level and so we came up with WrestleFest.

“Now, all of the hard work is starting to pay off and we’re ready to show the world what the UAE is made of.”

Al Shehhi is currently in full training mode and although he's confident he can take the title, one man is standing in his way.

“Dan Moloney is my biggest competition,” he says. “I’ve faced him once before and Saturday will be the reckoning. He has so many matches under his belt and is one of the biggest names and the highest-paid wrestlers in the independent wrestling scene.

“It’s going to be a monumental fight with no holds barred.”

Moloney, a British professional wrestler, is known around the world for his time in WWE, including competing in the 2017 WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament and appearances inWWE’s NXT show.

Standing at 1.77 metres and weighing 98 kilograms, Moloney is a formidable opponent who began training at the age of 12 and first competed at Fight Club: PRO in 2013, where he defeated Tyler Bate.

He went on to wrestle throughout the British independent promotions including Kamikaze Pro, Pro Evolution Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Kingdom, ATTACK! Pro Wrestling and many others.

During WrestleFest in May, the Birmingham-born wrestler emerged victorious in a lively brawl, which saw competitors wielding chairs to the roar of a baying crowd.

Now, Al Shehhi is determined to make a comeback during the rematch, in what is possibly the biggest fight of his career.

“It feels as though every match I’ve ever had has led me to this moment,” he says. “The champion will have the world of professional wrestling at his feet.

“I’ve never been more ready for anything.”

WrestleFest DXB takes place on Saturday, July 2 at 7pm-9pm. Tickets are available from Dh85 at Eventbrite

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Updated: July 01, 2022, 8:16 AM
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