Mohammed Yahya to make history as first Emirati to fight in UFC

Dubai-based athlete, 29, has been signed to the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion and will make his debut at UFC 294

Emirati Mohammed Yahya is set to take on Trevor Peek of the United States at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Exclusive interview: Mohammed Yahya ready for historic debut at UFC 294

Mohammed Yahya will make history next month when he becomes the first Emirati to compete in the UFC.

The Dubai-based athlete, 29, has been signed to the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion and will make his debut at UFC 294 at Etihad Arena on October 21.

Yahya, a UAE Warriors Arabian champion at lightweight, is scheduled to take on American Trevor Peek, although the UFC has yet to confirm the bout.

UFC 294 is headlined by the rematch between lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and former belt-holder Charles Oliveira – a re-run of the main event at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi last October.

Posting a video on Instagram having signed the UFC contract, Yahya said: “Alhamdulillah, it’s been a long road. I’ve signed with the UFC. It’s been a dream since I was 14 and I just got to show that dreams do come true, but with a lot of hard work.

“Now it’s time not to win, but to be out on the best performance I’ve ever had. This fight is not just for the UAE but for the whole Arab region."

The son of an Emirati father and English mother, Yahya was born in Oxford, England, before moving to Dubai when he was one. He began mixed martial arts aged 14 and competed in jiu-jitsu and kickboxing, climbing to 22-0 as an amateur in the latter.

After debuting in amateur MMA in 2012, Yahya signed with regional promotion Desert Force, and went on to win four of his five fights. He fought twice in Bellator – one victory, one defeat – and in 2019 signed for UAE Warriors.

Yahya has won seven of eight bouts for the Abu Dhabi-based promotion, becoming its lightweight Arabian champion. He defended the title three times.

Yahya competed most recently in February, where he sealed a unanimous decision win against Souhil Tahiri. As such, his professional record stands at 12-3.

Riding a five-fight win streak, Yahya fights out of TK MMA Fit gym in Media City. He is managed by gym founder Tam Khan.

“I’ve been training for this fight since March, so I’m ready," Yahya said. "I want to thank my manager and my coach, and the DCT [Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi] for making this happen.

“And [UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation chairman and chairman of Palm Sports, who manage UAE Warriors] Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, for supporting me all the time and giving me the platform to reach where I need to be.

"I’m ready, I’m going to make all the Arabs proud.”

Sitting alongside Yahya, Khan said: “This has been over 10 years, maybe 11 years in the making ... it’s a dream come true. The first ever Emirati to be in the UFC and the first ever Arab from the GCC region to be in the UFC. So it’s history for all Arabs as well as Muslims around the world. Congratulations Mohammed.”

UFC 294 marks the UFC’S return to Abu Dhabi for the first time in a year. It forms part of Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, a week-long series of events and activities.

Alongside Makhachev-Oliveira 2, the card also features a highly anticipated middleweight bout between Khamzat Chimaev and Paulo Costa, while rising flyweight Muhammad Mokaev takes on Tim Elliott.

Peek, meanwhile, is 8-1 as a pro, and has twice fought in the UFC – both this year - winning one and losing the other.

Updated: September 13, 2023, 6:11 AM