UFC mull annual Abu Dhabi event and Ultimate Fighter series

Martyn Thomas 11:23 13/04/2014
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Scramble for victory: Ryan LaFare (l) triumphed over John Howard on points.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans can look forward to an annual UFC event in the UAE while the organisation is also looking at bringing the Ultimate Fighter to the region.

Following a four-year hiatus, a capacity crowd at the du Arena in Abu Dhabi witnessed an excellent Fight Night on Friday as Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson produced a devastating first-round knockout to win his main event heavyweight clash with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Both UFC events held in the capital have sold out and while organisation executive vice president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Garry Cook, refused to officially confirm a return to the Emirates he did admit it would be “highly likely”.

“One of the things that we do at all of our shows is obviously work hard at building the awareness and growing the sport in every area that we’re in,” he said.

“We’ve had some really good business meetings this week. I don’t want to confirm anything, but it’s highly likely that this time next year we’ll be having this same conversation again because it’s really important for us to keep coming back here every year.

“I’d hazard a guess we’d be back here next year.”

By the time it does return, the Middle East could also be home to a strand of the reality television series, Ultimate Fighter. The show features fighters living and training together before they face off for a contract with the organisation.

“There are plans to have an Ultimate Fighter here. We’re working on that currently,” Cook added. “The Ultimate Fighter is the catalyst for developing and growing talent and developing and growing the market.”

American-born Palestinian fighter Ramsey Nijem, who took home a share of the performance of the night honours on Friday, came through Ultimate Fighter and would be keen to get involved as a coach if the series moved to the region.

“If there was a possibility, of course that would be amazing and a great time to come here and have enough time to absorb the culture and give back. I really want to be able to help spread martial arts and wrestling and everything else out here in the Middle East,” he said.

“Ultimate Fighter was a really big deal in my life and really helped me change everything, not just as a fighter but as a person and I would love to give that opportunity to another fighter.”

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