The UFC will return to the UAE in September after the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi announced a five-year partnership with the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation on Monday.
The UAE capital will play host to UFC 242 on September 7, which is the company’s first event in the emirate since Nogueira vs Nelson in April 2014.
Though the bouts are still to be confirmed, the card will be headlined by at least one championship fight, which could potentially see Khabib Nurmagomedov take on Dustin Poirier in the lightweight division.
“We are making a long-term commitment to Abu Dhabi because we have had great success in that market,” UFC president Dana White said.
“The demand from our fans to bring UFC back to Abu Dhabi has been overwhelming, and over the next five years, DCT Abu Dhabi will help us deliver some spectacular UFC championship fights to the UAE.
“I’m very excited about this partnership and what it will mean for the growth of this sport and for UFC in the region.”
Additional details about UFC 242, including venue, scheduled fights, ticket sales, and activities for fight week, will be announced at a later date.
“Abu Dhabi is now firmly established as a unique tourism destination which offers a diverse mix of activities and initiatives that cater to all kinds of audience and visitors,” said HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi.
“UFC will become a key component of Abu Dhabi’s thriving events calendar for the next five years, which is already packed full of not only great sporting events, but also cultural, arts and entertainment offerings as well.
“This spectacular mixed martial arts event, which has a huge following around the world, will bring heightened impetus to visitation in the third quarter for the emirate and will no doubt boost incoming tourist numbers as fight fans across the world gather in Abu Dhabi.”
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has revealed he is in talks to headline a UFC event in Abu Dhabi in September.
The 30-year-old had previously admitted that he would not return to the Octagon until November as a show of respect for his suspended teammates, Zubaira Tukgugov and Abubakar Nurmagomedov, who were suspended following the brawl at UFC 229 in October.
But Nurmagomedov insisted he could return as early as September, if the UFC will allow Tukgugov and Abubakar a place on the same fight card in the UAE.
“UFC told me that they are working on this. I just came back from Dubai. And very soon news is coming. Very soon,” he told RT Sport.
“Tony Ferguson can’t fight at the moment, (Georges) St-Pierre is retired, (Conor) McGregor is retired, a boxing match with (Floyd) Mayweather is not happening as we couldn’t come to an agreement with UFC. (Max) Holloway and (Dustin) Poirier are great fighters, I will fight the winner of this bout.”
As it stands, Ferguson is the No1 contender to fight Khabib, but is currently going through some personal issues that are preventing his highly-anticipated return to the Octagon.
With McGregor and St. Pierre both retired, the Russian could face the winner of Max Holloway versus Dustin Poirier in the Emirates, who are set to face off at UFC 236 later this month.
Jon Jones took the vacant UFC light-heavyweight title with a third-round TKO of Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson.
Jones, who was fighting for the first time since serving a 15-month doping ban, had the edge against the Mauler over the first two rounds but neither fighter was able to assert dominance over the other.
But the American was able to secure a takedown in the third, struck Gustafsson with elbows and landed more than a half dozen blows before a stoppage was called.
The second meeting of Jones and Gustafsson – Jones won their first encounter at UFC 165 by decision – was due to take place in Las Vegas, but it was switched to Los Angeles at the 11th hour after an abnormality in a pre-fight drug test from Jones.
After the fight, Jones called out Daniel Cormier who relinquished the belt saying: “What guy just gives up his belt because someone else made it home?
Meanwhile, Amanda Nunes became the first woman to hold a strap in two weight classes after an overhand right saw her knock out Cris Cyborg.
It was the first time that Cyborg, who held the featherweight belt, had been knocked out with her only other MMA loss coming via submission in her first career fight in 2005.
Nunes, bantamweight champion, started out the stronger of the two women, landing heavy haymakers from the get go and knocked her opponent out inside 51 seconds.
In the early preliminary fights, London-based bantamweight Nathaniel Wood knocked down opponent Andre Ewell before submitting him at 4:12 in the third.
Wood’s rear-naked choke saw him improve to 15-3, his last defeat coming in February 2016.