New gym is only the beginning of UFC’s grand plans for UAE

Alex Rea 1/03/2016
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Royal seal: Fertitta (l) & Sheikh Maktoum.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s new signature gym in Dubai is just the start of the company’s push into the UAE market, according to co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta.

The mixed martial arts facility, which opens its doors on Sunday, is the first UFC gym to launch in the Middle East, with the aim of

expanding the geographical reach of the franchise.

And Fertitta – who looked on as His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, und-ertook ribbon-cutting duties on Monday – insists there is much more to come, including the target of adding to two previous UFC events held in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and 2014.

“I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface,” Fertitta said when asked about the UFC’s reach in the Middle East. “I think there are a lot of other markets that we could be successful in.

“We’ve got a great relationship here with there being a UFC gym now and there’s a lot of interest in people wanting this gym and this product. We felt like Dubai was the right place to start because of all the commercial activity and everything it represents for the region.

“But we’ve also talked about bringing events and gyms to some of the other regions as well.”

The company is hoping to use the gym as a platform to draw in a new audience as the UFC continues to grow at a rapid rate. But Fertitta says it won’t be too long before the promotion returns to the UAE.

“We will definitely come back here,” he added. “It won’t be in 2016 but it will more than likely be in 2017 by the time we get back here but it is definitely in our plans.”

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most participated sports in the country and is one of the fundamental aspects of MMA. While the gym does cater to all aspects of MMA, there will be the opportunity to try out the discipline, with trainers on hand to guide you all the way through to the black belt stage.

“Obviously BJJ has a long history here but I still think that there are a lot of people who feel intimidated by going to a BJJ dojo,” Fertitta said.

“This will give people the chance to see if they like it and try it out.

“If they then want to go all the way and get their black belt then we’ll have certified trainers here that will be able to handle that.”

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Bisping claims defining win over Anderson Silva, targets titles

Alex Rea 29/02/2016
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Brutal: Bisping and Silva.

Blood, sweat, tears and controversy. Michael Bisping’s landmark victory over Anderson Silva had all the ingredients of an instant classic.

The Englishman brought the absolute best version of himself to earn a unanimous decision against arguably the greatest of all time – although that version appears a distant memory now.

Some will contest it, but no one will deny that Bisping has earned this. It’s a victory a decade in the making. One that will leave indelible scars lasting just as long, adding to a collection of indistinguishable marks from 25 bouts in the UFC.

Bisping, though, will happily trade, for it edges him closer to what he has chased his entire MMA career: a shot at UFC gold.

“I don’t dwell on the past,” Bisping told Sport360 in the lead up to the fight. “I just try and make opportunities for the future.”

Well, that opportunity, one richly deserved, may just come now.

Forever considered a top-10 fighter, ‘The Count’ has always fallen short when it mattered most, losing at a crucial time and bound by the label of best ever not to fight for a title. And while gold wasn’t on the line in London’s 02 Arena, he cemented something that will add the shine to his storied career regardless – his legacy.

“I always knew I could beat the guy and I did that,” he told MMAFighting.com. “I’ve been here many, many times but if I could sum up the emotion, it’s relief. It’s always relief. Obviously I have my critics and I’m a certain age now so people are trying to write me off.

“So it’s relief, for now. I did it and I overcame that hurdle and I proved to everyone I could do it but before we know it I’ll be back in that position again.”

The battle will long be discussed. Bisping was a riddle the Silva just couldn’t solve. It wasn’t flashy but he showed great fundamentals, pressuring the 40-year-old with relentless volume, pace and footwork.

It was a simple gameplan but an effective weapon when perpetually applied. Yes, Silva clearly out-damaged his foe, but he was consistently out-fought, inactive when it counted.

At times it was vintage ‘Spider’, picking Bisping apart and landing with effective strikes. But the reflexes and chin are worn. He was getting hit. Bisping quite clearly took the first two rounds, wobbling him in the first, dropping him in the second.

Then, things turned bizarre. In the third stanza, Bisping lost his mouthpiece and gesticulated with referee Herb Dean to put it back in. Silva capitalised, launching a vicious flying knee that landed flush on Bisping’s jaw. He thought the fight was over, many in attendance did, too. Bisping didn’t even seem to know where he was. But he gathered his senses and did what he has done throughout his career – he came back.

“I, of course, wanted to get back in there,” he said. “Whilst I have a breath in my body, I will always continue trying to fight. I felt fine.”

He didn’t look it, though. Blood streamed from his face, yet, he kept coming forward and won the fourth.

The Brazilian snapped a devastating front kick to the face in the fifth and took the final round. But it wasn’t enough. He didn’t do enough.

That’s a criticism no one can ever lay at Bisping’s feet. He’s more than done enough and now it’s time for his shot at gold. One imagines no gift was needed for the man who turned 37 yesterday. He’s already got it.

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Michael Bisping defeats Anderson Silva at UFC Fight Night: London

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Bisping post-fight.

The judges each scored the fight 48-47 in favour of Bisping, who now has a record of 29-7.

He is now ranked seventh in the division, while Silva is fifth but winless since October 2012.

“I worship this guy,” said Bisping of Silva post-fight. “This guy is the greatest martial artist of all-time. This has been a lifelong quest. Anderson, thank you.”

“The mission was given and I thought the mission was completed, but I guess not,” said the 40-year-old Silva, a future Hall of Famer who reigned over the division from 2006 to 2013.











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