UFC plans to visit Abu Dhabi in 2014 after four-year hiatus

After a bizarre first outing in Abu Dhabi in 2010, the UFC looks to give the city another shot.

Esther Lin

When the UFC visited Abu Dhabi for the first time in April 2010, the promotion expected a quick return. Four years and at least one scratched trip later, it will finally come. UFC president Dana White said on Monday that the octagon would finally come back to the United Arab Emirates capital city in 2014.

White made the declaration during a Monday media lunch in Los Angeles, and though he didn’t offer a specific date for the visit, confirmed that this would be the year it happened.

An additional UFC source said the visit was expected in the first half of the year.

The promotion’s first trip was to Yas Island, a man-made island that serves as an entertainment hub of the region. Because no indoor arena exists on the island, a temporary, open-air venue was erected for the show, UFC 112. The event drew about 11,000 fans and a $3.5 million gate.

The UFC is coming back to Abu Dhabi, but most likely without Anderson Silva this time.

The show is remembered both for its unusual setting as well as the co-main event surprise and the main event head-scratcher.

In the former, Frankie Edgar overcame huge odds as a longshot underdog to upset B.J. Penn and capture the UFC lightweight championship. In the latter, Anderson Silva danced, taunted and jabbed his way to a bizarre decision win over Demian Maia.

Afterward, White said he was “embarrassed” by Silva’s performance and threatened to cut Silva if he performed like that again.

White would later say that the fallout of the show delayed a quicker return. The closest the UFC has come so far to returning was in March 2011. UFC 128 was originally planned for Abu Dhabi, but the idea was eventually nixed and the event, which took place in Newark, New Jersey, saw Jon Jones defeat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to become the UFC light-heavyweight champion.

The U.A.E. is a target destination at least partially because the UFC is partly owned by Flash Entertainment, a subsidiary of the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Flash owns a 10 percent stake in Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company. Earlier this month, the UFC also agreed to a three-year broadcast deal with Abu Dhabi Media.