Ali Al-Qaisi looks to bring Jordan its first ever UFC win at Fight Island 2 in Abu Dhabi

Ali Al-Qaisi looks to bring Jordan its first ever UFC win at Fight Island 2 in Abu Dhabi
Ali Al-Qaisi says fighting without an audience is strange, but after doing just that against American Irwin Rivera at UFC Fight Night 174 in Las Vegas, he says he thinks he’s ready. (UFC/Getty Images)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Ali Al-Qaisi looks to bring Jordan its first ever UFC win at Fight Island 2 in Abu Dhabi

Ali Al-Qaisi looks to bring Jordan its first ever UFC win at Fight Island 2 in Abu Dhabi
  • The Bantamweight fighter, Ali Al-Qaisi, will take on Tony Kelley at Yas Island on Sunday
  • Al-Qaisi is aware that he, like Tunisian UFC fighter Mounir Lazzez, are blazing a trail for aspiring MMA fighters in the Arab world

DUBAI: Few people haven’t had their lives turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the spread of the virus spiked in March, almost all sporting competitions around the world came to halt.

Athletes were left uncertain about their immediate and long-term futures. Worse still, many found themselves in lockdown, away from family and friends – for some - on the other side of the world.

For Jordanian Bantamweight fighter Ali Al-Qaisi, at the time on a training camp in the US, it meant being stuck away from his homeland for almost seven months. 

There was nothing else he could do but make the best out of a bad situation.

“All the gyms were closed, there was no one to help with training,” Al-Qaisi said. “But I tried to take the positive out of the situation. I created my own schedule. Which meant training alone, conditioning, training outside. I tried to make sure I retained a good balance.” 

Al-Qaisi was born and raised in Jordan, where he still lives, and had been involved in several sports since a very young age. He only became involved in mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2015, when he was 25.

After stints with Desert Force, Phoenix Fighting Championship and Brave had given him a career record of 8-3-0, he became the first Jordanian to join UFC, the sport’s pre-eminent organization, earlier this year.

On Aug.3 8, he fought, and lost by a split decision to the American Irwin Rivera at UFC Fight Night 174 in Las Vegas. Despite the disappointment, he got the call to take part in Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island 2 a few weeks later, while restarting his training camp.

On Sunday, Alqaisi, nicknamed “The Royal Fighter”, will take part in Fight Night 2, the third of the five-event series, which kicked off with UFC 253 on Sept. 27 and which will conclude with UFC 254 on Oct. 24. 

“The location is excellent, it’s very comfortable,” he said of Yas Island, which has been turned into a safe zone for all fighters and staff taking part. “I landed here on Oct. 3 and then had two days of quarantine in my hotel room. I had a mat in the room so I could train. After that I had to work on bringing my weight down and doing all my media duties with Abu Dhabi Sports.”

Friday will see him at the weigh-in before he takes on Tony Kelley on Sunday morning. 

Fight Island 1 was the first post-coronavirus lockdown international event to attract athletes from around the world, and its success encouraged the organizers to go bigger with the follow-up. To keep the fighters entertained through some of the down time, Yas Island has provided plenty of activities and facilities, such as golf and private beaches, for the fighters.

But with his second UFC fight so close now, Al-Qaisi insists he’s only focused on one thing.

“To be honest, I’m only thinking of making the weight, my training and the fight,” he said. “Yes, there are a lot of activities but I have to be focused at the moment.”




On Aug.3 8, he fought, and lost by a split decision to the American Irwin Rivera at UFC Fight Night 174 in Las Vegas. (UFC/Getty IMages)

On Sunday, Al-Qaisi and the other fighters will be performing to an empty Yas Forum. Having fought Rivera in similar circumstances, he feels ready for the challenge.

“It’s a strange sensation,” he said. “We are so used to fighting in front of an audience. I’m very grateful that I have a large fanbase and I’m used to having them present and supporting me. The fight I had in August without fans was a little strange, but I acclimatized quickly and now I’m used to fighting (behind closed doors).”

“In my training camp, we made sure that in the gym I was there only with my training partner and coach, to get even more used to this normality,” he added.

Still, as one of only two Arab fighters taking part in Fight Island 2, Al-Qaisi has been overwhelmed with messages of support that have been reaching him in recent days.

“I’m getting such strong support from the Jordanian fans, the Arab fans,” he said. “I’m very grateful, it gives me good energy ahead of the fight.”

Al-Qaisi is aware that he, like Tunisian UFC fighter Mounir Lazzez, are blazing a trail for aspiring MMA fighters in the Arab world. It is a role he relishes.

“I’m very proud to be representing Arabs, and Jordan in particular,” he said. “Especially that I’m the first Jordanian to take part in UFC. I’m very excited for the coming fight, and hoping that it will be the first ever Jordanian win. Of course, I’m honored to be thought of as a role model for a new generation of athletes and MMA fighters in the Arab world.”

Like most athletes during these uncertain times, Al-Qaisi sees little point in looking too far ahead. The bout against Kelley, for now, consumes him.

“All my thoughts are on this fight,” said Al-Qaisi. “After that I will return to Jordan. Once I get back home, I’ll start training again, and only then will I start looking to the next steps in my career.”

A win on Sunday should secure that his third UFC fight, in Las Vegas, Abu Dhabi or elsewhere, is not too far off.


Five-star performance sees Palestine through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar

Five-star performance sees Palestine through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar
Updated 56 min 7 sec ago

Five-star performance sees Palestine through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar

Five-star performance sees Palestine through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar
  • A 5-1 win over Comoros means Palestine will be in Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan later this year

Palestine came from behind to defeat Comoros 5-1 and book their place at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup and will now join Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in a strong Group C at the end of the year, the FIFA official website reported.

The tournament will take place in Qatar from Nov. 27 to Dec. 18.

Comoros started off as the better of the two teams at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha and took the lead after only five minutes thanks to Moussa Djoumoi, who got on the end of Mohammed M’Changama’s pass.

Palestine slowly got into the game and squared the match on 34 minutes when Layth Kharoub tapped in from close range after Comoros keeper Moyadh Ousseni failed to deal with the free kick.

Eight minutes later, Palestine took the lead, Oday Dabbagh producing a moment of individual brilliance with a firm left-footed shot past Ousseni.

Palestine kept the momentum going after the break and extended its lead with the goal of the night as Dabbagh curled in an outside-of-the-boot cross for Tamer Seyam, whose fine run to the near post was rewarded with a glancing header that hit the post and went in to make it 3-1.

The 71st minute saw a repeat of the third goal as Dabbagh again crossed from the right for Seyam to score from close range.

Ten minutes later, Islam Batran took advantage of some poor defending before scoring Palestine’s fifth and confirming their spot at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup later this year.


Paul George leads Clippers over Suns, 106-92 in Game 3

LA Clippers' Patrick Beverley knocks the ball from the hands of Suns' Devin Booker during Game 3 of the NBA West finals on June 24, 2021. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP)
LA Clippers' Patrick Beverley knocks the ball from the hands of Suns' Devin Booker during Game 3 of the NBA West finals on June 24, 2021. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 25 June 2021

Paul George leads Clippers over Suns, 106-92 in Game 3

LA Clippers' Patrick Beverley knocks the ball from the hands of Suns' Devin Booker during Game 3 of the NBA West finals on June 24, 2021. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Kawhi Leonard remained out with a right knee sprain, leaving George to carry the load again
  • Game 4 is Saturday night at Staples Center

LOS ANGELES: Paul George scored 27 points and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in a dominant third quarter, beating newly returned Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns 106-92 on Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
The Clippers cut their series deficit to 2-1, ending the Suns’ franchise-record playoff winning streak at nine games.
Kawhi Leonard remained out with a right knee sprain, leaving George to carry the load again. After missing two crucial free throws in a one-point loss in Game 2, Paul had 15 rebounds and eight assists and played a game-high 43 minutes. He made 6 of 7 free throws.
The Suns got Paul back after he missed the first two games while being sidelined since June 16 because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The former Clipper, who was booed heartily during intros, had 15 points and 12 assists, but was 5 of 19 from the field.
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 18 points.
Reggie Jackson added 23 points for the Clippers, and Ivica Zubac had 15 points and tied his career playoff high with 16 rebounds.
Game 4 is Saturday night at Staples Center.
After Phoenix won the first two games by a combined seven points, the teams played a close first half. Then the Clippers went to work in front of their raucous, Thunder Stix-pounding fans.
They took control with the biggest run of the game, a 21-3 spurt that left them leading 71-56 in the third. Terance Mann got it going with six straight points and Jackson scored four in a row before George scored inside. Zubac dunked off George’s pass and made a pair of free throws. The Suns were limited to a 3-pointer by Paul.
Devin Booker picked up his third and fourth fouls in a 42-second span during the Clippers’ run. Booker — wearing a clear mask to protect his nose that required stitches after he and Patrick Beverley banged heads in Game 2 — was 5 of 21 from the field, making only one of seven 3-point tries, and finished with 15 points.
Jae Crowder, who assisted on Deandre Ayton’s winning dunk on Tuesday, fouled out with 4:51 remaining. He had nine points, six rebounds and six assists.
George capped the third by banking in a 3-pointer from just inside midcourt, and it beat the buzzer, stunning the fans and sending the Clippers into the fourth leading 80-69. He nearly bobbled the ball along the right sideline, with Booker and Cam Johnson pressuring, before getting the shot off.
Luke Kennard opened the fourth with a 3 from the right corner, getting fouled and making the free throw. Marcus Morris hit a three before George got fouled. He confidently made both, keeping the Clippers ahead 89-71.
Cameron Payne, who so ably filled in for Paul in the first two games, went down with a left ankle injury after playing four minutes and didn’t return.

TIP-INS
Suns: Fell to 10-3 in the playoffs, losing for the first time since May 27 against the Lakers at Staples Center in Game 3 of the first round. ... Booker and Beverley were called for double technicals in the third. ... Paul and Booker each missed their first six shots of the game and were both 2 of 10 with seven points each in the first half.
Clippers: Zubac is the first Clipper with a double-double in the first half of a postseason game since DeAndre Jordan on April 30, 2017, against Utah. ... Longtime fan Billy Crystal sat courtside.
 


No more beer bottles in front of Muslim Euros players: Officials

No more beer bottles in front of Muslim Euros players: Officials
Updated 24 June 2021

No more beer bottles in front of Muslim Euros players: Officials

No more beer bottles in front of Muslim Euros players: Officials
  • Players will now be allowed to decide whether they object to having a beer bottle in front of them

LONDON: Officials running the European Football Championship have announced that they will stop placing bottles of beer in front of Muslim players.

The decision comes after French star Paul Pogba moved the tournament’s sponsor drink during a press conference last week.

Pogba, a devout Muslim, removed the Heineken bottle from in front of him during a post-match press conference after his French national team defeated Germany.

Teams, managers and players will now be asked beforehand whether they object to having a bottle of Heineken 0.0 — an alcohol-free variant of the popular Dutch beer — on the podium on religious grounds, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It is forbidden in Islam to consume alcohol.


Arkan Sports and Punjab Green face off in national cricket final

Arkan Sports and Punjab Green face off in national cricket final
Updated 24 June 2021

Arkan Sports and Punjab Green face off in national cricket final

Arkan Sports and Punjab Green face off in national cricket final
  • The grand finale of Saudi Arabian cricket will be played between Arkan Sports and Punjab Green
  • The two teams reached the final having played nine league matches, quarter-finals and semi-finals

RYADH: Arkan Sports Club and the Punjab Green Cricket Club will meet in the final of the National Cricket Championship 2021 on Friday at the NOFA Resort.

The final of the competition, which was launched by the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) in partnership with the Sports For All Federation (SFA), is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. It will be followed by the awards ceremony.

“The National Cricket Championship, conducted in the middle of the pandemic, has been a huge success; and its vibrations have been heard across Saudi Arabia and beyond and this is just the beginning” Prince Saud bin Mishaal, SACF Chairman, told Arab News.

The final will mark the culmination of the biggest tournament of its kind ever held in the Kingdom.

“This final to be played at the NOFA Resort, a new cricket ground established with the support of the NOFA management, is part of the National Cricket Championship which is played in grounds all over Saudi Arabia,” SACF general manager Nadeem Nadwi said.

“This is the grand finale which will be played between Arkan Sports and Punjab Green, two teams that have reached the final having played nine league matches, the quarter-finals and the semi-finals.”

The championship was launched on Jan. 29 and matches were spread across 11 cities. More than 6,800 players from 369 teams, representing 15 cricket associations, took part in the biggest tournament of its kind in the Kingdom.

The matches were in the T20 format and took place every Friday on 106 pitches in Riyadh, Dammam, Jubail, Jeddah, Madinah, Yanbu, Tabuk, Abha, Jazan, Qassim and Najran.

“Together with our partners the Saudi Cricket Federation, and with the support and guidance of the Ministry of Sports, we are excited to be wrapping up what was a riveting and competitive season in the Kingdom,” said SFA president Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal. “The Quality of Life program, consistent supporters of our healthy and active community, joins us in looking at the national championship as a moment that reflects wellness, physical fitness, and fraternal spirit amongst players.”

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi, president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, is expected to attend the final alongside Prince Saud and Prince Khaled, as will ambassadors from cricket-playing countries such as the UK, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

There will also be more than 250 other guests present at the close of the cricket season.

“We have made arrangements for them to enjoy the grand finale at this beautiful resort in the middle of the desert,” Nadwi added.


UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions

UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions
Updated 24 June 2021

UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions

UEFA abolishes away-goals rule in club competitions
  • Games now tied on aggregate score after 90 minutes, goes directly to extra time then penalty shootout
  • UEFA president said the rule outlived its usefulness and inhibited home teams from attacking

NYON, SWITZERLAND: The away-goals rule was abolished Thursday by UEFA after 56 years as a fundamental way of deciding matches in its European club competitions.
The move was often proposed in recent years by club coaches who felt an idea from the 1960s was no longer relevant.
Games now tied on aggregate score after the regulation 90 minutes in the second leg will go direct to extra time and then to a penalty shootout.
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin cited the “unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.”
UEFA cited several factors that “blurred the lines between playing at home and away” including more television coverage to better understand opponents’ styles, comfortable travel and better playing surfaces.
Čeferin said the rule outlived its usefulness and inhibited home teams from attacking “because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.”