UFC president Dana White has laid out a bold prediction — he expects a champion from the Middle East within the next few years.
UFC 242 takes place this weekend and will mark the promotion’s return to Abu Dhabi for the first time in five years. Headlining the event is a lightweight title unification fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier.
Nurmagomedov will garner much of the Muslim support on Saturday but in time, White expects there to be a Middle Eastern champion as well:
“I won’t be surprised – I said this about England, I said this about Australia, Canada and every country we have gone to – there will be a champion from the Middle East probably within the next six to seven years,” White said (via MMA Junkie).
As of now, there is very little representation from the Middle East in the UFC with only a few notable names like Belal Muhammad and Nasrat Haqparast having ties to the region.
However, White believes the talent will eventually pop up especially with events returning to Abu Dhabi for a start:
“Since we have done events in Abu Dhabi – and it happens everywhere we go, it kick-starts the market,” White added. “Gyms pop up and people are training. Talent is coming out of the area.”
As for UFC 242, it will be the first of five yearly events taking place in Abu Dhabi. White says the UAE has been good to the UFC over the years and promises to bring huge fights whenever they come back:
“We have a really close connection with Abu Dhabi because we’ve already been there a few times and the fights we’ve done there before,” White explained. “The people of the UAE have been so good to the UFC. We are going to continue to come back and bring big fights to the Middle East.”
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