File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.
While it featured all the standard promotional trappings, event week for the Ultimate Fighting Championship's debut in the Middle East played out in a new context, and took on an heir of exoticism as the logistical details of Saturday’s pay-per-view came into focus.
UFC 112 will take place in the open air in a makeshift arena called The Concert Arena built specifically for the event. It’s positioned outside of the massive Ferrari World theme park on Yas Island, part of the oil-rich city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. A symbol of the city’s monetary excess, the arena, which has been feverishly constructed since March 21, will be torn down two days after UFC 112 concludes.
The newfangled Ferrari World has only held a limited number of Western entertainment events, like Formula One racing and concerts by the likes of Aerosmith and Rhianna. Production executives told MMAFighting.com that about the event will have double the sound, lights and capacity as a recent Formula One race and will use an Octagon stored in the United Kingdom for European events. Judges will come in from the U.S. and U.K. A crowd of 11,000 is expected, according to Yahoo Sports. The UFC’s Middle East partner, Flash Entertainment, announced mid-week that additional tickets were made available due to overwhelming demand. Tickets range from $107 to $1,007.
The temperature in Abu Dhabi is forecasted at a high of 88 degrees when the preliminary fights begin, dipping to 82 and overcast as the main card unfolds. White said he is not concerned about rain as much as wind, which could blow sand into the cage.
UFC fight week events like the press conference and weigh-ins were posted on tape delay and not live-streamed on the company’s Web site. All fighters made weight Friday. Western journalists mingled with local reporters wearing the Arab gutra headdress. Several fighters donned the headwear for photo ops and signed thousands of autographs in appearances in downtown Abu Dhabi. Local television networks were flooded with UFC fights.
UFC 112 is the first manifestation of the company’s alliance with Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment, the local promoter of the card, which purchased 10 percent of the company last year. The arrangement is paying quick dividends, as White told Yahoo Sports the company will be in a position to stage a card for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in two to three months and soon make its debut in China. Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia have expressed interest in hosting a UFC event after watching UFC 111 on March 27, White said.
A “Countdown” hype special premiered Thursday night on Spike TV, focusing on the top three matches in Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia, B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar and Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie.
Predictably, Maia was framed as the guy to submit Silva. The special included grappling tournament footage of Maia and visited him at home in Sao Paulo. The focus was mostly on Silva, however, who talked of an interest in fighting anywhere from welterweight to heavyweight and becoming recently reacquainted with his father, Jaurez Da Silva, who he did not see much as a child. Da Silva shadowed his son during media workouts and other events this week in Abu Dhabi.
Silva looks to set the record Saturday for most successful title defenses in a single reign with six and the all-time consecutive UFC win record with 11. Silva, who caused a stir in 2008 when he announced his desire to retire when he turned 35 on April 14, 2010, told Sherdog.com he has six fights left on his contract and will fulfill them.
On the “Countdown” show, Edgar got a much more concentrated look than Maia and was built as a scrappy underdog challenger who outperforms expectations every time out. Cameras followed Edgar at home and in the wrestling room at home in Toms River, N.J., where Edgar exuded confidence talking to cameras while jumping rope.
Equally confident was Matt Hughes, who harped on his dominance of Royce Gracie and victories over Renzo students Ricardo Almeida in a 1999 grappling match and over Matt Serra in their fight last year. Gracie, 43, said he dropped 27 pounds to get ready for the fight, and that nobody can ground-and-pound him on his back to victory.
Gracie, through his connections with Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who he’s coached in jiu-jitsu, provided a link between the UFC and Abu Dhabi.