The UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi in October will “reinforce the emirate’s status as the fight capital of the world”, according to the Department of Culture and Tourism.
The world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion will stage its latest event in the capital on October 21, when UFC 294 takes place at Etihad Arena.
Last month, the UFC announced a number of bouts for the card, including a headline rematch between lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and former belt-holder Charles Oliveira. Khamzat Chimaev, one of the UFC’s most popular athletes, and Muhammad Mokaev, widely considered a lead prospect, also feature.
The promotion’s 16th event in the emirate since signing a five-year agreement with Abu Dhabi in 2019, UFC 294 is part of Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, a week-long series of events and activities.
“We had been waiting for this announcement and now we can enjoy seeing MMA fans across the region – and the wider world – get as excited as we are,” Saleh Al Geziry, director general for tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT-Abu Dhabi), told The National.
“Over the past decade, the UAE capital has cemented its status as a hub for high-profile international sporting events and the global capital for MMA, so with UFC 294 bringing with it the world’s best fighters, it will undoubtedly be once again an unmissable event.
“Of course, as well as all the high-profile fights, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will also bring a series of city-wide activities… fans will not only witness the thrill of live events, but have unique opportunities to attend and engage in various activities related to UFC and MMA in general.”
General tickets for UFC 294 sold out in a matter of days, but organisers stress there remain hotel packages available.
Alongside Makhachev-Oliveira, the unbeaten Chimaev – 12-0 as a professional since debuting in Abu Dhabi in 2020 - will take on former title challenger Paulo Costa at middleweight, while No 2-ranked light-heavyweight contender Magomed Ankalaev faces No 5 Johnny Walker.
Meanwhile, middleweights Nassourdine Imavov and Ikram Aliskerov will meet inside the octagon, with fast-rising undefeated flyweight Mokaev putting his perfect 10-0 pro record on the line against Tim Elloitt, the division’s No 10-ranked challenger.
That said, Makhachev's rematch with Oliveira is a fitting headliner. The pair met at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi last October, when the Dagestani defeated the former champion via second-round submission to capture the lightweight crown for the first time.
Makhachev, unbeaten in 12 UFC appearances, has since defended his belt against featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, with Oliveira rebounding from last year’s loss – a first in 12 – with a dominant victory in June against Beneil Dariush.
Asked why the rematch appealed to top the bill at UFC 294, Geziry said: “Abu Dhabi is renowned for its exceptional hosting of UFC fights, and now, the entire world eagerly awaits the epic rematch between Makhachev and Oliveira.
“We aim to give the fans what they want, and hosting this monumental event in the UAE capital is a continuation of Abu Dhabi reinforcing its status as the fight capital of the world.
“The first encounter between the two last year in Abu Dhabi left fans in awe... Makhachev obviously won that night via submission to claim the lightweight title for the first time in his career, so we know Oliveira returns with something to prove. It promises to be an electric main event.
“This clash between Makhachev and Oliveira promises to be unforgettable, and we urge fans to come down and watch it live in person at Etihad Arena on October 21. With such exciting fights lined up, UFC 294 is sure to captivate fans worldwide.”
On how this year’s Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will surpass the successful run last October, Geziry said: “This is our fifth year running Abu Dhabi Showdown Week and every year we aim to top the previous year’s edition. So far, I believe we have achieved that each time and I have no doubts we will do so again this year.
“As with previous editions, we will bring a series of city-wide activations including fan-zones, nightlife events, concerts, retail promotions, hotel deals, F&B deals, and much more.
“It offers an amazing opportunity for fans to attend the latest major sporting event in the capital and embrace dedicated MMA-focused activities. Simultaneously, fans will have an opportunity to delve in the wide range of experiences Abu Dhabi offers.”