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UFC returns to Abu Dhabi with long-term deal

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to Abu Dhabi for the first time since 2014 after a five-year hosting rights deal was announced today (Monday).

The mixed martial arts promotion agreed the contract with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) under the Advantage Abu Dhabi Programme.

Advantage Abu Dhabi seeks to provide a unique opportunity for event organisers, increasing the overall value proposition of the destination by providing an array of support services throughout the event planning cycle.

The first event under the new deal will be UFC 242 on September 7. Though the bouts are still being confirmed, the card will be headlined by at least one championship fight, a model that will be retained for the remainder of the contract.

UFC previously held live events in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and in 2014.  UFC made history with its first event, UFC 112: Invincible, as it was the promotion’s first held outdoors. To stage the event, UFC built an open-air arena on Yas Island adjacent to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

“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.”

The event deal comes after pay-television broadcaster Abu Dhabi Media acquired exclusive UFC media rights in the Middle East and North Africa earlier this month, with the state-run group to launch a localised OTT service and mobile app in the region that will carry the property.

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “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.”