UFC Saudi Arabia Moved to June After Reported ‘Weak Card’ Concerns

An apparent lack of depth on the proposed fight card has led to UFC Saudi Arabia being shunted to a June timeslot from its original March position.

The Saudi Arabian aristocracy is currently promoting their ‘Riyadh Season’ campaign, which will see several combat sports events heading to the Middle Eastern country in the weeks and months ahead – including the inaugural PFL v Bellator extravaganza.

The delay will give Dana White and his team more time to put on a card worthy of the celebrations.

Desert Dust-Ups

Boxing has paved the way for MMA in Saudi Arabia, with many big-name fighters heading to Riyadh, the nation’s capital.

The latest Boxing betting odds suggest that their undisputed heavyweight clash in February should be a humdinger – at -138 and +110 respectively, this is as close to a ‘pick ‘em’ style bout as you’re likely to see.

And in March, Francis Ngannou – the former UFC heavyweight champ, of course – will look to build upon his encouraging debut in the sweet science by taking on former world champion Anthony Joshua.

The Predator was impressive in his maiden start with the big gloves against Fury, knocking down the heavyweight hero and being unfortunate, in many pundits eyes, not to win what was otherwise a split-decision victory for the Brit.

The success of previous boxing cards in Saudi Arabia has convinced other combat sports to cash in on Riyadh Season themselves, with the PFL v Bellator event on February 24 the first time that elite-level MMA has appeared at the Kingdom Arena.

That card will see four champions from each organization lock horns with one another, including a heavyweight scrap between Renan Ferreira and Ryan Bader, while the likes of Patricio Pitbull, Yoel Romero, and Jason Jackson will also feature.

There’s also the long-awaited MMA return of Claressa Shields, while the grandson of Muhammad Ali – Biaggio Ali Walsh – will be looking to show that he can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee on his pro debut.

Extra Time

UFC fans will have to wait until June to see the organization make its Saudi Arabian bow.

According to Ariel Helwani, a proposed eight-fight card was scrapped by organizers in Saudi because it featured few world-renowned stars – instead, it was padded out with veterans, journeymen, and fighters that might appeal to a Middle Eastern audience, such as the UAE-based Mohammed Yahya.

The original plan, as revealed back in October, was to host the event on March 2, but after the proposed card was leaked, the chairman of the general authority for entertainment in Saudi Arabia – Turki Alalshikh – instead called for a delay.

“A decision to reschedule was taken to ensure the best caliber of talent will be available to participate,” he said, with a new date of June 22 added to the diary instead. It’s rumored that authorities in the country have paid a $20 million ‘site fee’ to bring the UFC to Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime, the UFC Fight Night event will go ahead as planned on March 2, albeit in Las Vegas instead.

Severe MMA Staff

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