UFC president Dana White hailed the company’s first event in Abu Dhabi in five years a huge success after Khabib Nurmagomedov stole the show in the main event at UFC 242.
Devout Muslim Nurmagomedov has a huge following in the Middle East and his UAE fans were out in force at the new purpose-built arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
A capacity crowd, reportedly close to 15,000, saw him stop Dustin Poirier in the third round at UFC 242, while more than one million pay-per-view subscriptions were expected in the United States alone.
UFC president White said: “This thing is trending and breaking all kinds of records.
“We kickstarted this market 10 years ago. We came in and people loved it. Now, we have this new five-year deal. I am telling you that in the next five years, MMA and UFC are going to be massive, massive here.”
UFC agreed a deal with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) earlier this year to host annual events in the capital until 2023, with UFC 242 the first of those.
The organisation’s popularity has exploded in the region in recent years, with unbeaten Nurmagomedov – who hails from Dagestan, Russia – playing a major role in the growth.
UFC has capitalised on its brand strength in the region by opening franchises of its UFC Gym in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain.