UFC, the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion, is set for a triumphant return to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island with a sold-out action-packed night of fights on Saturday.

UFC294’s well-stacked card is headlined by crowd favourite Islam Makhachev who will be defending his lightweight belt in a rematch against Alexander Volkanovski.

In the co-main event undefeated, Khamzat Chimaev will be tested by the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ Kamaru Usman in the middleweight category.

“We are ready to witness the biggest Abu Dhabi Showdown Week and UFC fight night Abu Dhabi has ever seen,” Saleh Al Geziry, Director General of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT – Abu Dhabi) told Khaleej Times in an interview.

While Volkanovski is stepping in as a replacement for an injured Charles Oliveira, Usman is taking the place of an injured Paulo Costa. The last-minute changes to the main card have added more star power and glitz to the sporting extravaganza at Etihad Arena. Also, Mohammad Yahya will make history as the first Emirati fighter in UFC by taking on American Trevor Peek in the lightweight category.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week is underway with city-wide activations including the UFC fan experiences, nightlife events, concerts, promotions, and more.

“This year, more than ever before, we are showcasing an amazing opportunity for fans to attend the latest major sporting event in the capital and experience what Abu Dhabi has to offer throughout fight week.”

Al Geziry noted that over the past decade, Abu Dhabi has established its status as a global capital for MMA.

“Since 2010, when we first hosted UFC 112, we have consistently brought the world’s best fighters to Abu Dhabi and the result is huge growth in terms of interest as well as attendance among fans across not only the UAE but also the entire region.”

Al Geziry pointed out a steady spread of UFC gyms across the UAE and the wider region as a testament to the growing interest in the sport.

“Without a doubt, ahead of UFC 294, MMA has never been more popular in Abu Dhabi. During the five-year partnership, we have witnessed viewership figures increase substantially and a host of MMA-dedicated gyms launch across the country, both of which point further to an ongoing and increasing interest in MMA.”

Al Geziry highlighted that Abu Dhabi has invested heavily in state-of-the-art sports facilities and venues tailored for combat sports, and hosted major international events.

“These events attract visitors from around the world and continue to showcase Abu Dhabi as a global hub for combat sports. The partnership between Abu Dhabi and the UFC has consistently delivered extraordinary moments for fans, ranging from exhilarating fights to unforgettable experiences. This year’s fight card boasts an impressive line-up from top to bottom, and we are very excited to witness it all come together,” Al Geziry added.

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