By hosting world-class events, the UAE capital has cemented its position as a global destination for mixed martial arts (MMA), a top government official said as Abu Dhabi Showdown Week returns with UFC 280 later this month on Yas Island.

“Abu Dhabi had its first taste of hosting an MMA event back in 2010, with UFC Invincible 112 being an immediate international success, drawing global attention to the emirate, and proving that the capital has the ability to professionally host international combat sport events. This event cemented our interests and paved the way towards Abu Dhabi as a global hub for MMA,” Saleh Al Geziry, Director General of Tourism at Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said.

In 2019, UFC and DCT – Abu Dhabi announced a ground-breaking five-year partnership to bring high-profile fights to the UAE capital, reiterating Abu Dhabi’s ability to host combat sports.

“Within the span of 15 months, and despite the global pandemic, Abu Dhabi hosted 13 UFC events, including title fights and fight nights. Abu Dhabi underlined its importance to the franchise, cemented its place on the MMA map, and showed its dedication both to fight fans eager to tune-in and the personnel involved in terms of health and wellbeing. Although the majority of the events were held without fans, when the public were allowed to attend once more, tickets sold out in hours.”

Al Geziry pointed out that the rise of MMA within the region has been “unprecedented”.

“We can attribute the spike to the ongoing partnership with UFC to host major title fights in Abu Dhabi. Hosting world-class events such as UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev not only strengthens the financial situation of the emirate, it provides worldwide recognition and allows us to demonstrate our ability to host international events with highest health and safety standards, and positions Abu Dhabi as a growing sports destination.”

Al Geziry said the strategic partnership with UFC has been an “extremely fruitful and successful venture” over the past few years.

“Back in April 2019, when we announced a ground-breaking five-year partnership with UFC, we couldn’t have predicted the overwhelming success the partnership would produce. The significant increase in tourism has brought with it an undeniably positive impact on the economy. We have seen residents show more motivation to lead an active lifestyle too,” he highlighted. “We have undoubtedly demonstrated our significance to UFC as a global hub and look forward to the remainder of this partnership.”

While the capital has been the home to UFC events during the Covid-19 pandemic, UFC 280 will see return of a full-scale event and activations for the first time since UFC 242 featuring Khabib and Dustin Poirier in September 2019.

“Returning in full capacity for the first time since 2019 and the global pandemic, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will bring a series of city-wide activities, including fanzones, concerts, retail promotions, F&B deals, open workouts, and much more. It will enable fans to witness the thrill of live events and give them unique opportunities to attend and immerse themselves in activities related to UFC and MMA.”

Held from October 17 to 23, the action-packed week will be headlined by the lightweight title fight between Russia’s Islam Makhachev from Khabib Nurmagomedov’s camp and Brazil’s Charles Oliveira at Etihad Arena on Yas Island.

There is a second title bout giving fans a chance to witness history in the making as reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling will fight two-time titleholder TJ Dillashaw in the co-main event. There will be other high-profile bouts, including Petr Yan versus Sean O’Malley, Belal Muhammad taking on Sean Brady and Beneil Dariush versus Mateusz Gamrot.

Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, Al Geziry stressed, is an important part of DCT – Abu Dhabi’s ongoing strategy to develop the emirate into a world-renowned global sports, entertainment, and culture destination.

“It follows in the footsteps of previous UFC events, and joins other major sporting showcases that we host, such as the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Mubadala World Tennis Championship, NBA and a host of others.”

Having proved itself as the undisputed international home of UFC, Al Geziry added that Abu Dhabi has ambitions to become the “international capital” for MMA.

“Abu Dhabi Showdown Week will only enhance that mission with a series of events and activations leading up to UFC 280.”

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