Local Sports

UFC: Khabib is a global star with a massive fan base

Ashwani Kumar/Abu Dhabi
Filed on October 25, 2020 | Last updated on October 25, 2020 at 09.56 am
Khabib Nurmagomedov has more than 22 million followers on Instagram while his videos have generated 220 million views.

UFC may also open an office in Abu Dhabi as the city grows as the new fight capital of the world, according to David Shaw.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, the first Muslim champion in the UFC, who announced his retirement soon after defeating Justin Gaethje on Sunday, is not just an icon in the Middle East and Russia, but has risen as a superstar with fan base across the world, a top official said.

For someone who hardly makes any public appearances barring a lone fight a year, the 32-year-old 'Eagle' from Russia has more than 22 million followers on Instagram. His videos have generated 220 million views. His content that features him got over a 100-million video views this year on Facebook. And the Dagestani is by far the most played character in the video game globally.

David Shaw, senior vice president, international and content, UFC, told Khaleej Times that Khabib having the sort of fan base is an "incredible" achievement.

"Khabib is one of our global stars. His fan base really speaks about the global value and impact that some of our key stars make. Khabib is not only popular in the Middle East and Russia. He is popular everywhere. We broke some of the records with his content distributed on YouTube in Malaysia, the Philippines and Brazil. It's shocking to think about how much of an impact these athletes are making all around the world. We have got a lot to thank Khabib when it comes to the impact he has made on the sport."

Shaw noted that Abu Dhabi, the new home for the mixed martial arts, is set to get a lot more UFC action with a possible Contender Series, which could be a platform for local talents to bloom.

"The No.1 objective for us over the next few years is to continue to develop local talent, which will galvanise the region and increase the fan base here. We have done a lot in a short period of time in 2020. We have seen some success with local athletes like (Dubai-based) Mounir Lazzez, who competed in Fight Island 1. We have got a growing list of athletes with roots in the Middle East.

"Our focus now having laid the groundwork is to continue to build on that local talent opportunity. We are batting around a number of ideas, whether that means having a contender series at some point. Doing a bit more work in the sports science aspect like we do with our Performance Institute between Las Vegas and Shanghai."

UFC may also open an office in Abu Dhabi as the city grows as the new fight capital of the world.

"At the rate we are going, it (the office) could be possible. This is our ninth event this year in Abu Dhabi, alongside 23 other events. At that rate if we continue, we are going to need much more than an office. We have spent a considerable amount of our year in Abu Dhabi, which has been tremendously successful for our company."

Shaw acknowledged the committed partnership from the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi in achieving this level of success.

"We couldn't have done without their expertise. This sets up for greater opportunities in the future. We know there is a group here that we can continue to work with and have these events for many years to come."


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