Fight Club

Get set for the fight of your life as the Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its way to Abu Dhabi



By Mohamad Kadry

Published: Sun 31 Jan 2010, 9:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:09 AM

Americans can’t seem to grasp the concept of cricket, Arabs don’t understand the point of American football and the rest of the world is still mulling over Canada’s obsession with curling (who knew sliding stones across the ice with brooms could be so exciting). While the availability of true borderless sports are a rarity in today’s athletic realm, there is still one concept that draws universal appeal: raw fighting combat, and Abu Dhabi wants a taste of it.

Slated to take place on April 10 (ticket details in the coming weeks), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organisers promise to deliver ‘one of the biggest and most significant fights in the history of the UFC’. As the fastest growing sports organisation in the world, it has completely revolutionised the fight business and has attracted increasing interest from Middle Eastern audiences.

The UFC is, after all, a return to the primal instincts of men. It is an adrenaline-infused battle where regulatory rules, for the most part, don’t apply. We’re talking elbows to the face, kicks to the chest and any other attack to guarantee that only one man remains standing inside the infamous caged ring.

The sport’s popularity has surged in the last decade and unlike its World Wrestling Entertainment counterpart, the action is real (we’re talking blood, pain and beautiful fighting mastery). Sure, it’s brutally violent and sensational to watch, but think of it as performance art, in its most explosive and exploitative form.

For the first time ever, UFC will draw in thousands of local fighting enthusiasts to Abu Dhabi for a historic event that will look to rival the spectacles of a Las Vegas fight night, minus the ear biting and token Don King lookalikes. The indoor event is going outdoors at Yas Island where a ring-cage is already under construction. While other lower-profile gigs have taken place around the UAE before, the event – dubbed UFC 112 – will be broadcasted to approximately 450 million people in 130 countries and transmitted in 18 different languages. Arabic transmissions will also go out live, for the first time.

Topped by a double main event, two UFC world titles will be on the line in Abu Dhabi, with 12,000 expected to attend. First, UFC lightweight champion BJ ‘The Prodigy’ Penn puts his belt on the line against number one contender Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar. Then UFC middleweight king Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva defends his crown against fellow Brazilian striker, Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort.

As well as two fascinating UFC title clashes, the UFC’s first venture into the Middle East region will also showcase an intriguing battle of legends as UFC icon Matt Hughes locks horns with MMA pioneer and Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Renzo Gracie at welterweight.

If you’ve never seen a UFC fight, the spectacle itself outshines the true athleticism behind the fighters, but you’ll love it regardless. Loud and viciously addictive, it’s sort of like watching a python feed on baby mice: you’ll feel some guilt and remorse as a bystander but completely fascinated and enthralled as a witness. Arguably one of the most intense combat zones to take place within the sporting world, you’ll arrive a sceptic and walk out a fan. That, or, leave traumatised for life.

Arguably the most improved mixed martial artist in the sport today, Frankie Edgar, 11-1, has had the ‘answer’ to just about everything since joining the UFC in February 2007.

Born in Toms River, New Jersey, Edgar has won six bouts in the UFC and emerged as one of the best lightweights in the world.

The 28-year-old Edgar combines a strong wrestling background with vastly improved boxing ability and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Well-versed in all areas of the sport, Edgar has also claimed three Fight of the Night bonuses during his time in the UFC.

Very few fighters can boast the natural ability and talent of BJ ‘The Prodigy’ Penn, 15-5-1 in his mixed martial arts career. Never has a nickname been more apt.

A decorated black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Penn also possesses crisp and technical striking, as well as unparalleled takedown defence.

Such is the extent of his arsenal, Penn can usually dictate where a fight takes place and how he’s going to win it.

Born to fight perhaps more than most, ‘Baby Jay’ has competed professionally since 2001.

The pride of Hilo, Hawaii is one of only two UFC fighters to hold UFC titles in separate weight classes (lightweight and welterweight), the other being Randy Couture.

Considered by many to be the top pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world today, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, 25-4 in his career, is the current UFC middleweight champion, having yet to suffer defeat inside the Octagon.

The Spider has emphatically cut through the UFC’s stacked middleweight division, as well as posting breathtaking cameo appearances in the equally dangerous light-heavyweight class.

Born in Curitiba, Brazil, Silva entered to the UFC in June 2006 and was mesmerising in defeating the normally tough-as-nails Chris Leben inside one round.

Destroying ‘The Crippler’ with vicious punches and kicks, Silva instantly marked himself up as a man to fear in the 185lbs division.

kadry@khaleejtimes.com


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