The UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi this month is further proof of the capital’s ability to stage major global events with fans in attendance, said the Department of Culture and Tourism, as the emirate continues to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC 267, the first event in Abu Dhabi since January that features the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion, takes place at Etihad Arena on October 30. Headlined by two title bouts, it marks the conclusion to a second Abu Dhabi Showdown Week.
The UFC’s most recent visit to the capital, a third Fight Island series comprising three fight nights, was open to a limited number of spectators at Etihad Arena, representing the first time the organisation had held an event in front of a live audience since March last year.
The allocated capacity at the Yas Island venue has been increased for UFC 267 in line with government guidelines, with the original batch of tickets selling out last month in less than two weeks. More seats have since been made available.
The UFC 267 card is topped by Polish champion Jan Blachowicz’s light-heavyweight defence against Glover Teixeira.
Speaking to The National, Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, executive director of Tourism and Marketing, DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “UFC coming back to Abu Dhabi is another special milestone for the UAE capital, underlining our capability to host major global events with fans in attendance.
"Abu Dhabi is the international home of UFC, and we are honoured to welcome our longstanding partners back to the UAE capital once again.
“It’s really exciting to see the return of Abu Dhabi Showdown Week [ADSW] for a second edition. The week-long festival of entertainment and lifestyle events presents an opportunity to really reconnect with UFC fans, eventgoers, UAE residents and visitors, ring-fenced by our proven health and safety protocols to ensure the wellbeing of all parties.
“As Abu Dhabi gradually reopens to welcome tourists once again, ADSW will allow fans to witness the thrill of a live event."
In April 2019, DCT Abu Dhabi announced a five-year partnership with the UFC to stage one major event each year through to 2023, although the capital soon became the promotion’s international base during the pandemic.
The inaugural Fight Island was held in July last year, comprising four events, with Abu Dhabi staging eight more within the next six months.
“Abu Dhabi’s ability to continue welcoming UFC fighters from around the world to a safe and secure environment to compete is evidenced by the previous editions of Fight Island,” Al Shaiba said. “When the world was at a stand-still, the innovation and cooperation between our organisation and UFC really came to the fore.
“Our current partnership with UFC is now in its third year and it has been one of most successful ventures in recent years. Having welcomed fans to the Etihad Arena for UFC 257 in January, it is really exciting to be able to host even more fans at our state-of-the-art venue for UFC 267 on October 30.
“Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will help cement the UAE capital’s position as the international fight capital of the world.”
Asked how soon after October 30 fans in the UAE could expect another UFC event, Al Shaiba said simply: "The newly built Etihad Arena… is the international home of UFC, and Abu Dhabi is ready to host UFC events in a safe environment.
"Previous UFC events and now the second edition of Abu Dhabi Showdown Week have further strengthened the DCT Abu Dhabi-UFC partnership. UFC is always welcome in Abu Dhabi, and we will see more events in 2022 and beyond.”
Al Shaiba stated also that "DCT Abu Dhabi and UFC always strive to bring fans the best events featuring the biggest names, and we will continue doing the same in UFC 267 and beyond".
In August, UFC president Dana White announced he had “massive and major” long-term plans for Abu Dhabi. However, he is yet to make those public.
While not directly referencing White's vision for UFC and the capital, Al Shaiba said: “DCT Abu Dhabi is backing the ambitious plans to make the UAE capital the global hub of mixed martial arts [MMA]. Abu Dhabi has become synonymous with world-class cultural and sports events, and the successful hosting of recent UFC events is just the latest sign of the UAE capital’s capabilities to host major global events.
“The partnership between DCT Abu Dhabi and UFC will further strengthen Abu Dhabi’s mission to become the global capital of MMA.”