World Championship boxing joins UFC and jiu-jitsu to find a home in the UAE capital
Abu Dhabi-: The eyes of the boxing world will be fixed on Abu Dhabi next weekend, when the undefeated duo Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez square off in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena for the historic WBA Light-Heavyweight Championship. The highly anticipated event on November 5 will be a night of high-level boxing never before seen in the UAE, with three world title fights on the card, solidifying Abu Dhabi’s status as global capital of combat sports.
The arrival of the new Champion Series –– organised by Matchroom Boxing and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) –– is a testimony to the rapid rise of combat sports in the emirate, with an increasing number of champion athletes visiting the city, from MMA to Muay Thai, boxing to jiu-jitsu, and the emergence of local talent across the combat sport spectrum.
For years, the city has developed a proven track record for hosting major sports and martial arts spectacles. The hugely successful series of UFC events during the pandemic resulted in the organisation’s president, Dana White, proclaiming Abu Dhabi as the “international home of UFC”.
The Champion Series is the latest initiative by Abu Dhabi to push the combat sports needle in the region, and globally. The inaugural event in a multi-year partnership with Matchroom Boxing, one of the world’s leading boxing promotors, will propel Abu Dhabi to the top of the global fight game, say organisers.
HE Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, the Director General of Tourism for DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi is fast becoming one of the top global destinations for thrilling combat sport extravaganzas. Not only are we attracting the biggest names in the business, but these action-packed evenings are hugely popular with fans, families and anyone looking for an unforgettable and tremendously entertaining night out.
“We’re excited that Abu Dhabi is on the radar of the sporting world for our ability to attract and host major global events, and the sheer diversity of talent on display. Staging World Championship boxing was a natural evolution for us, and we are prepared for the Champion Series and our partnership with Matchroom.”
Boxing is not new to Abu Dhabi and enjoys a strong following. However, the first-of-its-kind WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title Championship will not only elevate the sport in the region, but will underline Matchroom’s commitment to grow boxing in Abu Dhabi, from the ground up.
In addition to the headline fight between Bivol and Ramirez, Abu Dhabi’s November 5 fight card also sees American Jessica McCaskill compete for the Undisputed Super-Lightweight World title against British opponent Chantelle Cameron in the first female world title fight ever staged in the Middle East. Zelfa Barrett and Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov are also scheduled to face each other for the IBF Super-Featherweight Title.
“We’re making a statement with this fight card,” said Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport. “This is shaping up to be one of the best fight nights anywhere in the world this year. We wanted to show how serious we are about growing the sport in Abu Dhabi and when you have an organisation like DCT Abu Dhabi that shares in your vision it makes the job easier.”
“It will be a special night, but it is just the beginning for us and boxing in Abu Dhabi. We all remember that first time at a live event or watching a sport in our home city. That’s what we want to create here; to highlight the thrill of boxing and, hopefully, start sowing those seeds for the next generation.”
With so much to see and do in around the fight venue on Yas Island, from theme parks to shopping and dining, and special events planned around fight week, starting October 31, it promises to be a big occasion for the growth of combat sports in the capital.
With major plans in place for the future of the Abu Dhabi-Matchroom partnership and more international martial arts competitions on the horizon, the UAE capital is well on its way to becoming the undisputed combat sports capital. The 14th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship will take place November 17-19 at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City.
Since its introduction to the UAE in the 1990s, jiu-jitsu is has grown to become the country’s national sport and is taught to thousands of children as part of the national school curriculum. Backed by steadfast support of Abu Dhabi’s leadership, the UAE capital is now the recognised global home of the sport.
Tickets for the landmark Light-Heavyweight World Title Championship, which includes three world title fights and an unrivalled undercard, start at Dh100, with limited VIP packages, including ringside seats. All tickets are exclusively on sale at www.etihadarena.ae.