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Dana White details UFC’s plans to invest in Arab region’s MMA talent

With the UFC in its second Abu Dhabi residency of 2020, the Arab region’s MMA market continues to grow.

The UFC has landed on “Fight Island” for five events during this latest run, which started with UFC 253 on Sept. 26 and will end with UFC 254 on Oct. 24, headlined by UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. interim titleholder Justin Gaethje.

The first run on “Fight Island” saw the signing of Mounir Lazzez, the first Arab-born-and-bred fighter to join the UFC roster. Jordan’s Ali Alqaisi followed suit, and all of a sudden there appears to be hope for the fighters in the Middle East and North African region.

During the same weekend as UFC 253, Abu Dhabi-based promotion UAE Warriors held its first-ever Dubai show, which featured some of the most notable names in the region such as Hashem Arkhaga and Tarek Suleiman, who both picked up big wins.

When asked if the plans to start scouting talent from local shows such as UAE Warriors, White said that if not for unprecedented times due to COVID-19, he would have been at the show.

“This is becoming the fight capital of the world,” White told UFC Arabia. “Not only with the biggest fights on earth happening here, but now talent is starting to pop up here, and I think you’re going to see that over the next six, seven years.

“Actually, if all this craziness wasn’t going on and we weren’t in the safe zone here in the bubble, I would have been at that fight,” White continued. “We would have done ‘Lookin’ for a Fight’ at the fights this weekend but yeah, I know that that show does well, and I love it – we’ll end up doing ‘Lookin for a Fight’ with them soon.”

Instead, White filmed an episode of “Lookin’ Forward to a Fight” with Matt Serra and Din Thomas, where the three indulged in some Middle Eastern food and tested out a flight simulation.

There’s no specific plan in terms of when the UFC will visit Abu Dhabi next, but White assures that they will continue to put on big shows every year.

“I’ve been in business with Abu Dhabi for a decade, and we have a five-year deal with these guys to bring five fights, one a year here, and then the pandemic hit and we ended up here,” White said. “This place is becoming the fight capital of the world. I mean the biggest fights in the world are happening in Abu Dhabi, so we love it here. People treat us unbelievably, the infrastructure here is incredible, beautiful hotels, great restaurants, pools, the ocean.

“When you put on fights, you want to go to a destination – a place that people want to come and check out. There’s no doubt in my mind, that once the world gets back to normal, whatever the new normal is going to be when it happens, Abu Dhabi is going to be a destination that people want to travel from all over the world to come see fights.”

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