Abdullah Al Qahtani will 'show the world how good Saudi fighters are' in kingdom's MMA bow

All eyes on Riyadh and local hero for 'PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions' in PFL’s much-anticipated inaugural event

Abdullah Al Qahtani will contest a three-round bout with India’s Edukondala Rao in Riyadh. PFL
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Used to competing outside his homeland, Abdullah Al Qahtani plans on relishing home advantage when he fights this weekend on Saudi Arabia’s momentous MMA debut.

What’s more, the Riyadh-born athlete is predicting fans in attendance, or those tuning in from afar, are in for a treat.

“Inshallah, they’re going to see something very good, something very excellent… and something crazy,” Al Qahtani tells The National in the Saudi capital as he puts the finishing touches to his prep. “And be ready.”

Evidently, Al Qahtani feels more than ready. Of course, the 7-1 pro record helps buttress belief. Competing initially in Bahrain-based promotion Brave CF, the Saudi national signed last year with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) and promptly marked his arrival last June with a first-round submission win against Lamar Brown, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Two months later, Al Qahtani took a unanimous decision against David Zelner, at the venerated Madison Square Garden in New York.

But, on Saturday, the featherweight will contest a three-round bout with India’s Edukondala Rao in Riyadh, on what is already shaping up to be one of the standout MMA cards of 2024.

“PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions”, taking place at Kingdom Arena, marks not only Saudi’s big bow in elite-level MMA, but the PFL’s inaugural blended event since acquiring fellow promotion Bellator in November.

The chief four bouts pit against one another champions of the respective organisations, while the card will also feature the likes of celebrated combatants Clay Collard and AJ McKee, women’s boxing superstar Claressa Shields, and the pro debut of Biaggio Ali Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson.

A stellar fight night promised, it was made possible, too, by the investment agreement announced last August between the PFL and SRJ Sports Investments, an entity owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund.

Understandably, Al Qahtani feels like an ambassador helping usher in a new frontier with MMA in the kingdom.

“I do feel it,” he says. “Before, like three years ago, no one here knows what MMA is. And also, when I started before that, I only wanted to be the best in the world.

“And now, all the eyes are on Saudi Arabia and on MMA. And now PFL has come, they are pushing for me to become the best.”

An only child, Al Qahtani dedicates his performances to his mother; it was her, in fact, who actually pushed him to take up the sport.

Now aged 24, and about to represent his country at home but on the global stage, it all seems to have worked out rather well.

“Now it’s here in Saudi, here with my family, with my team, all the people who want me to have success,” Al Qahtani says. “Every time I go outside to fight, I hear all the people are against me.

“But now here in Saudi, all of them push me, all of them want me to win – this is something huge.

“Everyone knows me; they know what I do in my fights. All my other fights are big and crazy. No one can explain what I can do in the fight. On Saturday, I will do something big.

“I want to put on a great show… and show the world how good Saudi fighters are.”

Updated: February 22, 2024, 2:44 PM