The UFC will hold its first-ever event in Saudi Arabia on March 2, 2024, officials told ESPN on Wednesday. The card will be a Fight Night in conjunction with Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Season festival. According to a release, UFC president Dana White will announce competitors for the card in the coming months
UFC announced Wednesday that it will hold its first-ever event in Saudi Arabia on March 2, 2024.
According to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, the event will be a UFC Fight Night Card, and it will take place as part of the Riyadh Season festival in partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority.
The announcement comes one month after UFC and professional wrestling giant WWE merged to form a company called TKO Group Holdings.
WWE ran its first show in Saudi Arabia in 2014, and since 2018, it has held two premium live events in Saudi Arabia per year, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 when WWE was limited to one show per year in Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, filings disclosed that WWE agreed to a 10-year contract with Saudi Arabia in 2018 under which WWE is paid around $50 million for every event run in the country through 2027.
LIV Golf is owned by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, and Formula One runs a grand prix race in Saudi Arabia. Both LIV Golf and F1, as well as WWE, have been the subject of criticism at times for working with a country that has a history of significant human rights violations.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing,” which is the term used to describe a country using sports to distract from atrocities.
The Saudi Arabian PIF already has some involvement with MMA, as it owns a minority stake in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), which is a UFC competitor.
Working with Saudi Arabia has been a controversial topic for sports leagues, but it has also been a lucrative endeavor.
It is not yet known which fights will be placed on the Saudi Arabia Fight Night card, but UFC president Dana White said he will announce the card in the coming months, per Raimondi.
Before UFC makes its Saudi Arabia debut, the latest WWE premium live event in Saudi Arabia will be held on Nov. 4 when Crown Jewel emanates from King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.