UFC 280: Islam Makhachev and Belal Muhammad visit children's hospital in Dubai

MMA stars took time out from preparing for their fights to spend time with kids at Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital

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UFC stars Islam Makhachev and Belal Muhammad took time out from preparations for next week’s UFC 280 with a visit on Tuesday to Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital in Dubai.

Makhachev, a frequent visitor to the UAE, headlines the Abu Dhabi event at Etihad Arena on October 22, when he takes on Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title. American Muhammad, meanwhile, faces fellow welterweight contender Sean Brady. Makhachev and Muhammad have been training for UFC 280 at Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.

On Tuesday, the athletes were joined by various members of their team – UFC fighters Zubaira Tukhugov, Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Umar Nurmagomedov, and Bellator competitor Usman Nurmagomedov – at Al Jalila Children’s, where they met young patients on the in-patient and dialysis ward.

During the visit, the fighters posed for pictures with the children, aged five to 11, and gifted signed boxing gloves and merchandise. The visit was organised through Al Jalila Foundation’s #AJFSports Ambassador programme, which promotes philanthropy in sports.

Speaking afterwards, Makhachev said: “We just came to the hospital to see these kids because we want to make them happy. They’re sick, so we can give the kids some love, some gifts. And I think they’re going to watch our fights. I hope they’re going to have a quick recovery and come back home soon.”

Makhachev said the visit helped place into perspective next week’s title match-up in Abu Dhabi, the most high-profile bout of his 23-fight professional career.

“Of course, the kids have more important fights. My fight is not so important. If we just help them one per cent, make them happy – that’s our mission.”

Muhammad, who like his teammates shared jokes with all the children, said: “Honestly, it was an amazing experience. Just to see the kids, what they’re going through and the hardships they have, makes you think more about your life, your stupid little stresses, where these kids are fighting for their lives every day.

“You never want to see a kid suffer; you never want to see a kid go through that. But they are. So, for me being able to put a smile on their face, to see them laugh or throw a punch and see them excited to see us, it’s an amazing thing because it tells me I’m fighting for something bigger, more than just wins and losses.”

Muhammad, 34, sits currently as the UFC’s No 5-ranked welterweight contender. Brady is ranked at No 8.

“This fight is nothing compared to what people are really fighting for,” Muhammad said. “These kids are fighting for their lives, for their health. You take for granted your health, your freedom to do what you want. These kids can’t go outside and have fun with their friends. It just breaks my heart; you just want to cry.

“But seeing the smile on their face makes you want to be strong for them, makes you want to be a better person, a better role model for them kids.

“They’re the ones that, when they see me on TV with my hand raised, it’s going make them raise their heart, raise their energy.”

Tuesday’s visit was arranged by Rashed Al Mohtadi, manager – partnerships and sustainability at Al Jalila Foundation, and foundation ambassador Hadi Omar Al Hussaini. The Dubai-born Emirati, who competes in UAE Warriors, has trained with Makhachev and team since last year.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - September 07, 2019: Welterweight bout between Belal Muhammad (green shorts, winner) and Takashi Satō in the Early Prelims at UFC 242. Saturday the 7th of September 2019. Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Al Hussaini said: “I know Rashed, and I’m a sports ambassador for Al Jalila Foundation, so I know their vision and mission. I know exactly what they do and how they help people.

“And we’re a country that always gives. Humanity, giving to people in need, is No 1. So this is the least I can do. When I told the team we have some children that are big fans of yours and the UFC, they all said let’s do it as soon as possible. They’re all happy to do this something like this.

“For them, training is priority, but also giving a smile to a child is something that will push them even more in training. If you can give hope to a person, give joy to a kid, this is something you cannot even describe.

“God give them fame, give them a lot of things, so this is how you give back to your community, to your people.”

Inaugurated in November 2016, Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital is the first dedicated children’s hospital in the UAE. The facility was created under the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 8:29 AM
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