On this day, April 10, 2010: Abu Dhabi hosts UFC 112 in sport's inaugural Middle East event

President White described the event at Yas Island as 'one of the biggest and most significant nights in the history of UFC'

Powered by automated translation

Dana White, the plain-spoken president of the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion, labelled it “one of the biggest and most significant nights in the history of the UFC”.

His company was coming to the UAE, set to stage its inaugural event in the Middle East. It wasn’t the only “first” it ticked off.

"Abu Dhabi is our first outdoor event and we are very happy we could deliver what fans around the world will recognise as a stacked card featuring the sport's biggest stars,” White said.

It was UFC 112, staged at the 12,000-seat outdoor concert arena at Yas Island’s Ferrari World, on April 10, 2010. A decade ago to the day.

As White declared, the bill was stacked; one of the strongest, in fact, in mixed martial arts (MMA) history. UFC 112 would feature not one, but two title fights, which was a rarity in the sport back then.

Middleweight champion Anderson Silva headlined, in his clash with fellow Brazilian Demian Maia. Original opponent Vitor Belfrot had withdrawn months before through injury.

BJ Penn, the celebrated lightweight champion, took on No.1-ranked challenger Frankie Edgar. It was quite the coup for Abu Dhabi, for Silva and Penn represented two of the all-time finest pound-for-pound MMA fighters.

Down the card, Renzo Gracie, the renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu pioneer, made his UFC debut, going up against Matt Hughes, a former two-time welterweight champion.

Titled “Invincible”, UFC112 arrived in the capital a few months after Flash Entertainment’s buy-in to UFC: the Abu Dhabi-based events firm had acquired a 10 per cent stake in the promotion’s parent company, Zuffa LLC.

Excitement built throughout the week in the lead-up to fight night. A number of activities along the Corniche climaxed with the official weight-in at Marina Mall the day before the combatants took to the octagon. It drew a large turnout.

And so to the action. Mark Munoz’s second-round victory against Kendall Grove – by technical knockout – won “fight of the night” on the 10-bout card. DaMarques Johnson claimed “knockout of the night” by dispatching brutally Brad Blackburn in the third.

Later, in the evening’s fourth final fight, Rafael dos Anjos earned “submission of the night”, when his armbar in the second round put paid to Terry Etim. Each one selected took home $75,000 (Dh275,000) in bonuses.

In the major bouts, Gracie succumbed to Matt Hughes in the third, while Penn suffered a surprise loss to Edgar, relinquishing his lightweight belt on a unanimous decision. A tightly contested contest, it was Penn’s first defeat in that division in eight years. The decision, though, met with widespread criticism: many thought Penn, the overwhelming favourite coming into the fight, had done enough to win.

Speaking afterwards, Edgar said: "BJ is the greatest lightweight ever. I can just hope to be half the champion he was."

Much to everyone’s frustration, the headline act failed, by far, to live up to his billing. Undefeated in his previous 10 UFC outings, Silva ran out a unanimous winner on points, only the second time in 11 fights that he needed the judges’ scorecards.

However, Silva’s performance left an incredibly bad taste. Seeking a UFC record of six title defences, the Brazilian rarely engaged with Maia, taunting his opponent through the opening rounds. Soon, the Abu Dhabi crowd soon switching their support to the underdog.

As Maia looked to take the fight to the ground, Silva’s superior defence staved off his challenge, but did little to capture the fans’ attention. At one point in the fifth, the referee ordered Silva to take the fight to Maia.

Speaking afterwards in his native Portuguese, the victorious champion attempted to apologise above a crescendo of boos.

"I'm sorry,” Silva said. “I wasn't as humble as I should have been. I will be better next time.”

By that stage, White had already left. Disappointed with what he was witnessing, he departed the arena during the fourth round, foregoing his usual post-fight practice of presenting the champion their belt.

In the press conference afterwards, White fumed: "It was a disgrace. To end this night the way we did was embarrassing. I apologise to every one who came to the fight.”

White was later asked by The National if Silva's next bout should be Georges St Pierre, the welterweight champion for whom the crowd had chanted for throughout the main event.

"Who wants to see Anderson fight after that fight?” White responded. “He could be the first champion in history to be fighting on the preliminary card."