'Dubai has a real opportunity to be the fight capital of the world'

New promoters Probellum prepare for their first night in UAE

World Flyweight Championship, December 11, 2021.
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Established in September, Probellum is a boxing and media promotion company that on Saturday will stage its first ever fight night, “Probellum: Revolution”, at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai. The event features two world championship bouts, includes two Emiratis on its card, and boasts renowned ring announcer Michael Buffer.

Probellum president, Richard Schaefer, spoke to The National ahead of this weekend’s fight night.

Probellum president Richard Schaefer. Picture: Probellum

What is Probellum and why begin this new venture?

Probellum is a new boxing and media promotion company, and what sets it apart from others is that it’s a global brand. Traditionally, boxing promotion companies have focused on one market, and maybe once in a while they’ve staged a fight outside of that market. Boxing is one of the biggest sports in the world and at Probellum we have a global vision. In the first two months of our existence we’ve already executed 25 partnership agreements with boxing entities around the world.

Where does Probellum fit in the current boxing landscape?

It’s a bit different to a traditional boxing promotion company as we have a global focus and we want to give fighters from around the world an opportunity to test themselves in the biggest fights, and in the biggest markets. We will definitely be – and we already are - one of the leading boxing promotional outfits.

The mission statement is “the best fighting the best”. How difficult is that objective, especially in this fragmented sport, and how do you envisage delivering on that?

Often in boxing you don’t see the best fighting the best because promoters try to keep them in-house, so boxers fight opponents who are promoted through the same stable. I understand that sometimes it’s in the interests of the networks and the promoters, but it’s not always in the best interest of the sport. Our board gave us, as the executive team, the mandate to work with everybody. We don’t want to burn bridges; we want to be a unifying force in the sport of boxing. We don’t have a problem if we work with a fighter who is linked to Al Haymon’s [Premier Boxing Champions], Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, Frank Warren’s Queensbury - we’re open to working with everybody. These are not just words, this is our mandate, and we want to show our fighters that we are willing, able and capable of opening these doors.

Given your vast experience, what are going to be greatest obstacles in achieving that?

I was recently in Mexico City at the Boxing Convention, which is an annual event where promoters from around the world meet. I’ve been to many of those events - I know most of the boxing promoters from around the world - and what I can say is that the way in which Probellum has been received around the world, they have embraced our vision and they all want to work with us. I’m extremely optimistic and the results speak for themselves. The fact we have already executed 25 promotion, co-promotion and partnership agreements in different markets and countries, in the space of two months, makes me very enthusiastic about the prospects of Probellum.

I really feel as though we’re on the right path. In any business you will face obstacles, but we have a great team in place at Probellum. We have our chairman, Ali Shams Pour, we have Harrison Whitman, a brilliant legal mind and strategist. Eric Winter was the chief architect behind the UFC Fight Pass, who has tremendous experience in the sports and media fields. Anthony Petosa puts together great productions with his work behind the lens and then I have experience on the promotion side. We have a great team and I have full confidence we will be able to execute against our mission.

Looking at this weekend’s event, why choose Dubai to kickstart Probellum?

Probellum see Dubai as an ideal venue for boxing. AFP

I first visited Dubai 15-16 years ago and I was very excited about the city’s vision. In the past 12 months I have been there many times and it’s been great to see the city convert that vision from many years ago into reality. Living in LA, and being very familiar with Las Vegas, I have seen how important sport is to those cities, and I see the same with Dubai. It’s become a central hub for tourism, there are people from all over the world visiting Dubai and it’s the safest, cleanest place. It has great restaurants and entertainment, with many tourist activities and attractions. I believe Dubai has a real opportunity to become the fight capital of the world and we want to be a part of that. We want to bring world championship fights to Dubai and continue to help build tourism in the city.

How important a market do you envisage Dubai will be going forward, not just for Probellum but boxing as a whole?

It’s a key market. I see the great work D4G Promotions has put into developing the market and there is now a tremendous interest in boxing, which is also becoming very popular as a workout sport. People using it as part of their daily exercise routine are now following the sport and, as a result, you see a lot of young people who may have previously gone into other sports, discovering boxing. There is a lot of talent getting into boxing, and there is a lot of talent in Dubai, and across the whole region, who we want to help build into the next generation of world champions.

What are you expecting from the Coca-Cola Arena as host venue?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Saeed Saeed: Fans outside the Coca Cola Arena before the concert by Latin superstar Maluma. Friday, February 14th, 2020. Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The Coca-Cola Arena is a first-class venue, one of the best in the world, which shows how serious Probellum is about delivering fights at the highest level. Throughout my 20+ years of promoting fights, I’ve always tried to bring events into big markets at the best venues so fight fans can bring their families and have the best time. It’s safe, it’s clean. Probellum is a first-class brand and we want to associate ourselves with first-class venues such as the Coca-Cola Arena.

What, for you, would make the company’s first event a success?

We put together a great card and to do our first event with two world title fights is huge. The main event, Sunny Edwards versus Jayson Mama, sees two undefeated fighters go head-to-head. Between them, they have 32 fights and 32 wins. As they say: “somebody’s 0 has got to go.” It’s a high-stakes IBF flyweight showdown and the same goes for the WBO Bantamweight showdown between John Riel Casimero and Paul Butler.

Then you have Bakhodir Jalolov, the super-heavyweight gold medallist from the Tokyo Olympics, who already has eight fights and eight knockouts to his name. I have no doubt he will be the next heavyweight champion of the world. Donnie Nietes has gone from a young Olympic gold medallist to one of the most legendary fighters coming out of the Philippines, along with Manny Pacquiao, John Riel Casimero and Nonito Donaire. Then you have Jono Carroll from Ireland, a brilliant talent. If these bouts go how I think they will, we could have a few ‘Fight of the Year’ contenders. This is, from top to bottom, a card where the fight fans are the real winners.

What are your plans with Probellum for Dubai beyond this weekend?

This is the first of many events. We believe in Dubai and the wider region. We want to bring the biggest and best fights to the region. I believe Dubai has the opportunity to become the fight capital of the world and we are going to bring several events to Dubai next year.

You have two Emirati boxers competing on Saturday. How important is it to showcase regional talent through Probellum in future?

Fahad Al Bloushi of the UAE after winning against Ayubu Tezikoma of Uganda during their super featherweight contest in Dubai in September. EPA

The mission and vision of Probellum is global, and another element is to support grassroots boxing and build up fighters and markets which, in the past, haven’t been on the same global levels as others. We believe the UAE has an amazing pool of talent and two of them – Sultan Al Nuaimi and Fahad Al Bloushi - will be competing on Saturday. They will be on the card and proud to show their talent to fights fans around the world. It’s very important for us to develop local talent and help them become world champions. My goal, and a goal of Probellum, is to take one of these UAE fighters and help them fulfil their dreams of becoming a world champion in the UAE.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 8:43 AM
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