UAE

Stephanie McMahon talks WWE's relationship with the Special Olympics

Dan Owen 14/03/2019
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Stephanie McMahon

WWE chief Stephanie McMahon has paid tribute to the athletes of the Special Olympics and hailed the partnership between the two organisations.

Speaking from Abu Dhabi the Chief Brand Officer spoke of her own involvement in the Games and the inspiration they bring to her and the other WWE superstars.

“Our partnership with Special Olympics goes back decades,” she said. “I was actually in high school the first time I volunteered at the World Games so to be here now as the Chief Brand Officer of WWE and a mother of three daughters, to be part of such an important cultural and humanitarian effort that is all about bringing people together and celebrating what connects us, the inclusion, love, passion, work ethic and respect, that everyone has for one another and what everyone involved in these Games feels, it’s a privilege to be part of.”

Stephanie also spoke of the time WWE broke new ground in Abu Dhabi by holding a women’s match, a first for the region, and the lessons that can be learned from those taking part this week.

“It’s incredibly important for me personally, for the WWE, and for the world, and all cultures to be part of something that is about inclusiveness and bringing one another together and celebrate what we have in common.” she said. “For Special Olympics to be taking place in Abu Dhabi where we held the first women’s match in the region, and on that night the audience started chanting ‘this is hope’, and now for the first time ever at the Special Olympics World Games there are females athletes represented from every delegation. It is powerful.

“I am so inspired by the athletes. I had the opportunity to be there for the Torch Run as it came to the Louvre and had chance to talk to a couple of the athletes afterwards, and what they had to say, and the pure joy in their hearts is incredible. I asked an athlete, Ryan from New Zealand, if he were to speak to a group of WWE superstars what would he say. He said he would tell them ‘hard work, believe in yourself, and never give up’. I think those words, and that notion it true for all of us, and is exactly what Special Olympics is all about.”

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UAE

SBG wins first ever Reign MMA Championship event

Dan Owen 10/03/2019
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Straight Blast Gym, coached by John Kavanagh, won the inaugural Reign MMA Championship in Dubai

Ireland’s Straight Blast Gym clinched the inaugural Reign MMA Championship in Dubai over the weekend.

The team, headed up by world renowned coach, John Kavanagh, got the better of MMA Association Poland.

The unique format saw the main card made up of matches pitting fighters from the two teams against each other.

Reign MMA Championship is the brainchild of Core, a production company who brought the World’s Ultimate Strongman event to Dubai last year.

The event was contested by amateurs, but the quality of both the fights and event as a whole was anything but.

Along with hundreds ringside at the Sky Bubble at The Meydan Hotel, more than 10,000 people watched the event through a dedicated livestream.

The main event saw a heavyweight clash between Bartosz Zaczeniuk and Irish prospect Ryan Spillane.

The Corkman looked confident on his feet early on, but then found himself on his back for much of the round as the Polish fighter looked to impose his will on the floor.

After defending well from the bottom position, Spillane was able to sink in a heel hook late in the round and secure an impressive win – topping off a great night for the Irish gym.

Earlier in the night, the promotion broke new ground in holding their first women’s MMA bout – a highly competitive battle between SBG’s Dee Begley and MMA Association Poland’s Barbara Grabowska.

A tough stand-up match ensued, with the Corkwoman taking a unanimous decision – and helping her team on the way to overall victory.

Don Idrees, Owner/CEO at Core Worldwide, was satisfied with the first hosting of the event and is looking forward to what the future holds for the promotion.

“We had a fantastic night of quality fights,” he said.

“The matches were competitive, and entertaining and a huge amount of credit must go to the fighters and their respective teams. John Kavanagh and Martin
Lewandowski brought really strong teams over here, and we very much thank them for that.

“We wanted to show there was an appetite for MMA in Dubai and the reaction to this inaugural event proves there certainly is.”

He is now excited about what the future holds for the fledgling organisation.

“We will unquestionably be holding more events,” he said. “Even before this weekend’s event we have had fighters, coaches, gyms and organisations from all over the world get in touch to discuss future opportunities.

“The professional level of this sport is dominated by a few companies, so we will continue down the amateur route, and with this team versus team format.

“This is an exciting time for sport and entertainment in Dubai and Reign MMA is another part of this.”

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Ben Lyttleton talks lessons business can take from football at the Emirates Festival of Literature

Dan Owen 7/03/2019
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Ben Lyttleton

The world of football doesn’t always seem to have a great deal of synergy with other businesses.

Living in a fantasy land of telephone number transfer fees and highly prized assets, that can be difficult to manage at the best of times, it feels a unique space.

However, according to Ben Lyttleton, there are more similarities and learnings than you might think.

Lyttleton, a British journalist, is the author of Edge: What Business Can Learn from Football – and will be talking on the subject at the Emirates Festival of Literature this Friday.

Having spoken to experts across the world of football, Lyttleton draws on a wealth of different viewpoints from some of the most experienced people in the field.

One of the areas he discusses is success – and what we consider to be success.

He names the example of the pressure Mauricio Pochettino finds himself under at Spurs – despite being well placed in the Premier League and still in the Champions league.

“Spurs is a very good example at the moment,” he said.

“If you listen to some, you have a coach who is under pressure because he hasn’t won a trophy. The questions to ask are; what is success? How do you define success? And how do you measure success?

“No one can look at the work of Pochettino and say he is not successful. You’ve got a team who have not bought a player for two windows, they have been playing away matches for two years, and somehow they are third in the table, and in the last eight in the Champions League. It’s astonishing how successful he has been.

“Only one team can win the league, and that is usually the team with the highest wage bill, or the one that is spending a fortune. The way we measure success has to be redefined as well, and I think that goes for all of us – in all our lives.

He also looks at the struggles of managing a team that is made up of people from a different generation – something that football and business has to contend with. He discussed the problems seen at Manchester United this season.

“Jose Mourinho found it very difficult to get the best out of the current group at Manchester United because a lot of people, I think unfairly, see millennials as very hard to manage,” he said. “They need to right type of environment in order to flourish. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given them that collaborative environment, given someone like Paul Pogba that freedom to be creative.”

In business it’s not unusual to fear the loss of your very best talent – much like a football team want to keep hold of a prize striker.

Lyttleton says this mustn’t be a concern to good managers – and they much strive to give their best people the opportunity to thrive.

“The modern day coach is not just improving players by getting them to run faster and kick harder, which is essentially skills players would already have if they are at top clubs, it’s about improving the intangible qualities like resilience and creativity which are much harder to measure and improve,” he said.

“If you outgrow your professional setting you deserve a fresh opportunity to reach higher heights.

“The football ecosystem understands that and if you want to get the best out of your talent, there is no way you are going to deny them the opportunity because this player is only going to leave your club for big money if you have got the best out of them – that shouldn’t be a deterrent to developing that talent.

“One of the key element of developing talent is opportunity. There is no point having a talent if you are not going to play them. Much like in a professional environment, there is no point having a super-talent graphic designer who is a guru in the office, if you are not going to let them graphic design and do the job they are there for.

“It is very difficult in this short term society of hot-takes and if you lose you’re out, and you win you’re the hero, to have the time to develop talent and give it the time it needs to flourish.

 BEN LYTTLETON: EDGE is at the Emirates Festival of Literature on Friday 8 March, 10am-11am, Al Ras 3, InterContinental, Dubai Festival City.

More information here

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