Special to Sports News Highlights

(SNH) — Following in the footsteps of boxing, the UFC, the leading promotion in MMA, has strategically forged a partnership with Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

Despite any controversy surrounding 'sports-washing,' the UFC’s commitment to the region is not a fleeting trend, but a long-term alliance, commencing with the Fight Night card in June.

Saudi advisor Turki Alalshikh spoke highly of the promotion, the introduction of ‘Power Slap’ to the region, and the idea of bigger fights and events to be held outside of the United States.

According to Alalshikh, combat sports are the present and future of in-person entertainment.

“This is a strong message to the market with UFC,” Alalshikh told ESPN’s Mike Coppinger Tuesday.  “We are working with everyone. My favorite is boxing, but we will try to make Riyadh one of the biggest cities around the world in MMA.”

Part of Saudi Arabia’s initiative will see it sponsor UFC 306, which will be the first live sporting event in the history of the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, Nev. Sept. 14. From there, according to a press release from Riyadh Season, the region will see multiple UFC events held there per year, including pay-per-views, while also giving fighters from the region the chance to begin their careers on a big stage.

“This agreement is a continuation of Riyadh Season’s aims to host and partner with prominent and international events of mass interest,” Alalshikh said in a statement.  “It also enhances our efforts for Riyadh Season to produce diverse content in order to engage and attract an even wider audience with different interests from around the world. UFC is the most prominent Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world and their platform of global fans is unrivalled.”

The UFC currently has a streaming media rights deal with UFC Arabia, the promotion’s direct-to-consumer service, which offers UFC programming, including live events nearly every week.

Undoubtedly, the UFC’s global expansion is driven by its audience. As it aspires to become the world's largest combat sport, it recognizes the pivotal role of influential entities like Saudi Arabia in facilitating unparalleled international fights, even in the U.S.

According to Bleacher Report, Saudi Arabia and the UFC are willing to spend the money, which is currently worth an estimated $11.3 billion.

With June right around the corner, the UFC is also investing back into its pay-per-view schedule, which will see Islam Makhachev, Conor McGregor, Sean Strickland, and Khamzat Chimaev all compete within a month-long timeframe, which will likely draw eyeballs and intrigue from around the world regardless of who might be competing during a specific event.

Nevertheless, it will not be the last time MMA, and quite frankly, the UFC, will make a financial decision that could change combat sports but the international appeal of all sports long-term.

For now, the UFC’s home base will remain in Sin City, but based on the rapid evolution of the brand, it may only be a matter of time before a new era of the sport emerges if it hasn’t already done so.

Follow Sports News Highlights on Facebook and X platform to get our headlines in your social feeds.

Copyright 2024 Sports News Highlights. All rights reserved.