The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Monday announced its return to the Middle East in September with UFC 242, which is likely to be headlined by lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s return.
The UFC announced a five-year partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, which marks the promotion’s return to the region and will see them host events that include at least one title bout each time they make the trek to Abu Dhabi.
UFC 242 will be the first such event. It is slated for Sept. 7 and will include open workouts, weigh-ins, press conferences, live entertainment, and more.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier likely to headline UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi
Though no fight announcements were made on Monday, the UFC has long been targeting September for Nurmagomedov’s return, which would be a title unification bout with interim champion Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov and Poirier have also both publicly talked about fighting in September with Nurmagomedov specifically mentioning Abu Dhabi as a potential location.
“Yes, that’s the fight. Poirier will fight Khabib next, probably in September,” UFC president Dana White confirmed at the UFC 236 post fight press conference, confirming the targeting of the bout.
The fight also makes sense from the perspective that Nurmagomedov is the UFC’s first champion who is Muslim and Abu Dhabi’s state religion is Islam. So, Nurmagomedov would be a popular choice to headline the fight card.
Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has mentioned that he would like to make his return on the same card as Nurmagomedov, but hasn’t been as closely linked to fighting in Abu Dhabi, as of yet. When he returns, Whittaker is expected to unify his title with the interim belt of Israel Adesanya.
The UFC has twice held events in Abu Dhabi – UFC 112 where Anderson Silva had an odd performance against Demian Maia and a UFC Fight Night featuring Roy Nelson knocking out Rodrigo Nogueira – but hasn’t returned to the Middle Eastern country since 2014. It won’t be that long between events there for the near term, at least for the length of this new five-year deal.
“We are making a long-term commitment to Abu Dhabi because we have had great success in that market,” said UFC President Dana White. “The demand from our fans to bring UFC back to Abu Dhabi has been overwhelming, and over the next five years, DCT Abu Dhabi will help us deliver some spectacular UFC championship fights to the UAE. I’m very excited about this partnership and what it will mean for the growth of this sport and for UFC in the region.”
UFC officials did not reveal further specifics of the five-year plan other than each event will have at least one title fight. That likely means at least one event per year that would likely be on pay-per-view, since the promotion tries to headline all of its pay-per-view events with a title bout.