Abu Dhabi: With jiu jitsu gaining a strong toe-hold in the UAE, the fan following for combat sports has grown tremendously in the country. This is what has prompted Flash Entertainment to bring the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) back to the capital after a gap of four years.
And UFC enthusiasts can rest assured that there will be thrills galore in store on April 11 at the du Arena in Yas Island. The big fight of the night will be between interim heavyweight champion Minotauro Nogueira and Roy Nelson. The event is perfectly timed as the UAE will be playing host to the Jiu Jitsu World Championship soon after the event.
Both Nogueira and Nelson expressed the view that jiu jitsu expertise was the biggest plus while competing in UFC.
“Jiu Jitsu is the perfect martial art that could help one graduate into the Ultimate Fighting Championship,” said Nelson. “For Mixed Martial Arts, I will like to start with wrestling, Jiu Jitsu and boxing. If you remove any one of the three, you will struggle, especially Jiu Jitsu,” said the fighter who is a black belt in Jiu Jitsu like his opponent Noguiera, who too has attributed a lot of his success to the sport.
“In my youth, I played judo and lot of other martial arts, but since I started doing Jiu Jitsu, I felt a lot confident. I became more athletic and have improved in grappling. If I have got my submission game 100 per cent, then I’m confident and I will be doing lot of Jiu Jitsu tactics during this clash,” revealed Noguiera, who runs his own gym in Dubai.
The event will also boost the confidence of the UAE team taking part in the Jiu Jitsu World Championship later in the week, Nogueira added. “There will be a lot of youngsters out there who very well understand what Jiu Jitsu movement is and, when we will be applying them, they will be watching it at the arena or on TV live. It will definitely help,” said the Brazilian.
With UFC being a combination of mixed martial arts, the match-ups can be brutal and the scars on Nogueira’s body are a testimony to that. “Ya man, I have broken lot of bones. I have broken my arm, hips, lot of ligament tears on my left arm, shoulders and elbows. A lot of things have happened over the years but I have put on lot of muscles now. I love what I do and, after April, I hope everything stays together,” laughs Nogueira.
Nelson, who took part in his first professional fight in the UFC in 2004, revealed that the sport has come a long way and has even eaten into the boxing market. “When I started 14 years ago, nobody knew me and now everyone knows my name. The sport has grown to the point — what boxing did from the 60s to the late 80s with Mike Tyson,” he said.
John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment, revealed that, the UAE event is the first of five UFC events they have planned to host in the region in two years. “We are not planning to stop after this event and four more events like this will be hosted in partnership with the UFC around the Middle East. We are here to entertain and the UFC is a great way to do that,” he added.
Gary Cook, executive vice-president and managing director of UFC Europe, Middle East and Africa, who has worked extensively with the UAE-owned English Premier League side Manchester City before this, said: “Today represents a journey that we have been out for the last 20 years. It represents another step in that journey. We have been here before and it was a great success. It really helps us to develop and expand our business across Europe, Middle East and Africa.”