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Monday, April 22, 2024

Saudi Arabia to host first blockbuster UFC card

Saudi Arabia continued its aim of becoming a global hub for sports by announcing that the Kingdom will host it’s first major UFC fight event.

Chechen-born fighter Khamzat Chimaev will face Robert Whittaker in the headline fight in Saudi Arabia on 22 June as part of a blockbuster card.

The middleweights will cash in a title eliminator, in the UFC’s debut in the Kingdom with Chimaev, 29, undefeated in 13 fights so far.

Despite the Chechens pedigree the Australian former champion Whittaker will likely provide his toughest test to date. The MMA Guru podcast predicts Whitaker to win based on questions over Chimaev’s stamina. The Champion has dismissed these questions in the past and fans point to his victory over Kamaru Usman in October 2023 as an example of his superior strength and conditioning.

The winner of the fight will face reigning champion and South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis later this year. For Chimaev, a victory over a former champion like Whittaker would solidify his status as a legitimate title contender and further cement his place as one of the sport’s brightest prospects.

The undercard also features an all-Russian heavyweight contest between Alexander Volkov and Sergei Pavlovich.

The fight is a major coup for the Saudi’s after the proposed hosting of UFC fight night 236 in early March was scrapped because officials wanted a “deeper and more high-profile card” than the UFC was planning. The Country is believed to be paying a $20 million site fee for the event which put the pressure on the UFC to deliver a major card.

The reaction of UFC fans suggest that Dana White, CEO of UFC might have pulled of what both Saudi money and UFC enthusiasts both wanted. Areeb Siddiqui a fan called Whitaker vs Chimaev “amazing”, saying “finally we find out if Khamzat is title level or not. Winner gets title shot. Undercard looks pretty good too.”

The card will feature five fights on the night and includes former UFC title challenger Kelvin Gastelum, who returns to the Octagon looking to make an impression in the welterweight division.

  • Robert Whittaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev (Middleweight bout)
  • Sergei Pavlovich vs. Alexander Volkov (Heavyweight bout)
  • Kelvin Gastelum vs. Daniel Rodriguez (Welterweight bout)
  • Volkan Oezdemir vs. Johnny Walker (Light heavyweight bout)
  • Shara Magomedov vs. Ihor Potieria (Middleweight bout)

UFC Saudi Arabia will take place at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on the 22 June with the  venue having hosted boxing matches involving Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua in recent months.

The pull of Saudi Arabia as a place where major fights in combat sports are now taking place has led some to say that the Kingdom is now the fight capital of the world. White and the UFC’s announcement is likely to strengthen this claim.

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