UFC confirms Abu Dhabi event as news of Khabib return appears imminent
UFC officials confirmed on Sunday that they have signed a partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) which will see the region host UFC events through the next five years. A world title bout headlining each of the cards is included in the agreement.
The event, which will be the organization's third in the United Arab Emirates, will likely feature Nurmagomedov defend his 155lb title against the division's new interim champion Dustin Poirier who claimed the vacant title in a fantastic tussle with Max Holloway earlier this month.
Nurmagomedov remains under suspension for inciting the post-fight brawl in Las Vegas in October of last year which led to disciplinary action against him and his defeated opponent, Conor McGregor, along with several of their associated cornermen and training partners in the wake of UFC 229 in Las Vegas.
RT Sport was among the first to report the news at the beginning of April when Nurmagomedov confirmed that he and the UFC were in talks about fighting on the rumored Abu Dhabi card.
"Yes, we are working on this," Nurmagomedov said at the time. "UFC told me that they are working on this. I just came back from Dubai. And very soon news is coming. Very soon," he added.Also on rt.com Khabib Nurmagomedov reveals UFC 'working on Abu Dhabi in September' for Russian's next fight (VIDEO)
The lightweight champ also stated that his return was dependent on teammate and UFC featherweight Zubaira Tukgugov and cousin Abubakar Nurmagomedov both being cleared to compete on the same card. They were handed 12-month suspensions for their parts in the UFC 229 melee.
"[Tukgugov and Abubakar] either have to fight with me on the same event or before me, it is the main term of my comeback," Khabib said at the beginning of April.
The UFC has visited the Abu Dhabi on two previous occasions. Frankie Edgar defeated BJ Penn for the lightweight title there in 2010, while Roy Nelson defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the headliner four years later.
As part of the UFC's debut event in Abu Dhabi nearly a decade ago, then-UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta sold a 10 percent share in the company to Flash Entertainment, an investment wing of the emirate's government which is works towards bringing high profile events to the Middle East. This was sold back to Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG) last September for an undisclosed sum.Also on rt.com 'I have to maul this guy': Khabib Nurmagomedov says he's ready to battle Dustin Poirier in September
"We are making a long-term commitment to Abu Dhabi because we have had great success in that market,” UFC president Dana White said in a press release.
"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."