Why Saudi Arabia’s first UFC event could see return of Conor McGregor

Why Saudi Arabia’s first UFC event could see return of Conor McGregor
The UFC Fight Night Saudi Arabia has a slim chance that it will deliver the UFC’s biggest star – Conor McGregor. (AFP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 18 October 2023
Follow

Why Saudi Arabia’s first UFC event could see return of Conor McGregor

Why Saudi Arabia’s first UFC event could see return of Conor McGregor
  • Inaugural foray into Kingdom boosts Middle East’s MMA scene, may play host to UFC’s star attraction

RIYADH: The recent announcement that the UFC was coming to Saudi Arabia for the first time was in danger of becoming a footnote in a chaotic week for the MMA organization.

While upgrading the upcoming UFC 294 card in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 21, with flyweight champ Alexander Volkanovski and former welterweight king Kamaru Usman joining the card as replacement fighters, the UFC signed a significant deal with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority. And on March 2, 2024, UFC Fight Night will come to Riyadh.

There are several reasons why this news is important. The most obvious is that Saudi UFC fans will see some of their favorite fighters up close as the Octagon finally lands in the Kingdom.

Beyond this, it shows the UFC’s commitment to hosting shows in the Middle East and is another step to inspire and unearth the next wave of regional fighters into the mix.

It is also a direct response to rival MMA brand PFL (Professional Fighters League), which has been a fixture in Saudi for a while and is now backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. MMA fans in Saudi Arabia are the big winners with both deals.

Right now, there is only one official event scheduled. UFC Fight Night will happen during Riyadh Season, a city-wide event featuring concerts, exhibitions, and more. It will also see Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou go toe-to-toe in their heavyweight boxing match on Oct. 28.

But a long-term partnership is expected to blossom, something akin to the five-year relationship between the UFC and Abu Dhabi Tourism that brought UFC nights and title fights to the UAE capital.

However, speculation remains about who will appear on the first-ever Saudi card. Although both event types are packed with talented fighters across the roster, UFC Fight Nights and numbered events have a crucial difference – title fights are reserved for the latter. Unless there is a huge departure from how the UFC operates, the Riyadh card will not feature any championship bouts. These will likely come further down the line.

However, UFC Fight Night Saudi Arabia should provide the excitement fans have come to expect from the MMA franchise. And there is a slim chance that the card will deliver the UFC’s biggest star – Conor McGregor.

“The Notorious” was among the first people to congratulate Saudi Arabia and the UFC on the deal via his X (formerly Twitter) account, leading to rumors he may have a vested interest in the event.

Speculation will be rife for months until UFC boss Dana White announces the official line-up, but the prospect of McGregor returning after a two-year lay-off through injury and filming a remake of the movie “Road House” cannot be ruled out.

The stars are aligning for Saudi Arabia to welcome McGregor back. His next opponent is scheduled to be Michael Chandler, who he coached opposite in the last season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show.

McGregor is also back in the drug-testing pool – a requirement that all fighters must enter before being cleared to compete. This means the timelines for the March show are also favorable for an appearance.

And finally, it will not be a title fight, which again boosts the chances of the Irishman sitting at the top of the bill in Riyadh. All things considered, including that the UFC and SGEA will want to make a statement with the inaugural event, it would not be a surprise.

Trying to piece the card together from the outside is slightly more challenging as no fighters immediately jump out.

Middle East favorites such as Khamzat Chimaev and Islam Makhachev are in action on Oct. 21 in Abu Dhabi. Chimaev could make the swift turnaround. He would need to quickly take out Usman at UFC 294 to be in with a chance of appearing. Makhachev, on the other hand, will be either a defending champion or due for a rematch with Volkanovski – so, unlikely to be in Saudi Arabia.

Whatever happens, the UFC matchmakers will ensure the card is stacked with talent. And just maybe, McGregor could headline UFC Fight Night Saudi Arabia.


England fan seen waking up in empty stadium at Euro 2024

Updated 47 sec ago
Follow

England fan seen waking up in empty stadium at Euro 2024

England fan seen waking up in empty stadium at Euro 2024
“I’ve just woken up. It’s four o’clock in the morning,” the unidentified fan says in the video

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: A worse-for-wear England fan woke up cold and confused in an empty stadium hours after the end of his team’s Euro 2024 clash with Serbia, according to a video on social media.
“I’ve just woken up. It’s four o’clock in the morning,” the unidentified fan says in the video showing rows of empty seats behind him at the stadium in Gelsenkirchen where England won 1-0 in their opening game on Sunday night.
The video, viewed hundreds of thousands of times, prompted laughter among fellow England supporters, though some questioned how security had missed the snoozing fan and also why the lights were still on in the early hours at the stadium.
“This is what happens when you watch Sleepy Southgate ball!” quipped one poster, referring to coach Gareth Southgate’s team’s less than scintillating second half performance.

A worse-for-wear England fan woke up cold and confused in an empty stadium hours after the end of his team’s Euro 2024 clash with Serbia, according to a video on social media. (X/@FBAwayDays)

MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s

MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s

MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s
  • As many as 47 MLC stars have featured in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024

DALLAS: Team USA have made history by advancing to the Super 8 stage of the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 for the first time, decided by a wash-out in Broward County.

The US’s advancement ahead of cricketing powerhouse Pakistan has sent shockwaves around the globe and is rallying Americans to get behind their national team.

Team USA, as the host nation making its World Cup debut, has captured the world’s attention. After defeating Canada convincingly in the opening game, the team also emerged victorious against Pakistan in a thrilling super-over, putting them in a position to finish second in Group A.

Cognizant Major League Cricket players in Team USA are: Ali Khan, Nitish Kumar and Shadley Van Schalkwyk (Los Angeles Knight Riders); Steven Taylor, Nosthush Kenjige, Monank Patel and Shayan Jahangir (MI New York); Corey Anderson (San Francisco Unicorns); Harmeet Singh, (Seattle Orcas); Milind Kumar (Texas Super Kings); and Andries Gous, Saurabh Netravalkar and Yasir Mohammad (Washington Freedom).

With the USA set to face South Africa, the West Indies and England in Group 2 of the Super 8 round, MLC Chief Executive Vijay Srinivasan said the advancement of the team to the next stage of the home world cup was an incredible achievement.

“Congratulations to Team USA who, in their first-ever World Cup appearance, gave us three thrilling matches of cricket against the world’s best teams and earned their position in the Super 8.

“This is a historic moment for the sport, especially for our players from Major League Cricket who are representing the USA. We hope that this inspires boys and girls around the country to pick up a bat and ball this summer and encourages sports fans to attend an MLC game or tune into the broadcast. 

“The USA’s advancement to the Super 8 means they’ll automatically qualify for the 2026 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, providing Major League Cricket with a strong platform for continued growth.”

 

MLC’s six teams — Los Angeles Knight Riders, MI New York, San Francisco Unicorns, Seattle Orcas, Texas Super Kings and Washington Freedom — boast some of the world’s best international and domestic talent who are preparing to represent their respective countries in the World Cup.

All 47 MLC players who have featured in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, listed by team, are:

Los Angeles Knight Riders

Ali Khan — USA

Nitish Kumar — USA

Shadley Van Schalkwyk — USA

Andre Russell — WI

Shakib Al Hasan — Bangladesh

David Miller — South Africa

Josh Little — Ireland

 

MI New York

Steven Taylor — USA

Nosthush Kenjige — USA

Monank Patel — USA

Shayan Jahangir — USA

Tim David — Australia

Nicholas Pooran — West Indies

Rashid Khan — Afghanistan

Kagiso Rabada — South Africa

Trent Boult — New Zealand

Anrich Nortje — South Africa

Romario Shepherd — West Indies

 

San Francisco Unicorns

Corey Anderson — USA

Matt Henry — New Zealand

Josh Inglis — Australia

Sherfane Rutherford — West Indies

Haris Rauf — Pakistan

Pat Cummins — Australia

 

Seattle Orcas

Harmeet Singh — USA

Quinton de Kock — South Africa

Heinrich Klaasen — South Africa

Michael Bracewell — New Zealand

Ryan Rickelton — South Africa

Obed McCoy — West Indies

Imad Wasim — Pakistan

 

Texas Super Kings

Milind Kumar — USA

Mitchell Santner — New Zealand

Devon Conway — New Zealand

Aiden Markram — South Africa

Daryl Mitchell — New Zealand

Naveen-ul-Haq — Afghanistan

Marcus Stoinis — Australia

 

Washington Freedom

Andries Gous — USA

Saurabh Netralvakar — USA

Yasir Mohammad — USA

Marco Jansen — South Africa

Akeal Hosein — West Indies

Glenn Maxwell — Australia

Travis Head — Australia

Lockie Ferguson — New Zealand

Rachin Ravindra — New Zealand

 

The second MLC season kicks off on July 5.


Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
  • Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness

PARIS: Three-time Grand Slam runner up Ons Jabeur said on Monday she will sit out this summer’s Paris Olympics to avoid further injury to her knee.
Tunisian Jabeur, 29, will miss the Games, between July 27-August 4. The competition being played Roland-Garros, meaning a switch back to clay immediately after the grass season and before the hard-court run up to the US Open.
Last year Jabeur underwent surgery on her right knee.
“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending to the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur said on her social media accounts.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Olympics,” she added.
Jabeur reached the final at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023 and at the US Open in 2022. She competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo five years later.
Wimbledon starts on July 1 with the US Open beginning on August 26.
Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness.


Boats cruise the Seine river in a rehearsal for the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremony

Boats cruise the Seine river in a rehearsal for the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremony
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Boats cruise the Seine river in a rehearsal for the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremony

Boats cruise the Seine river in a rehearsal for the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremony
  • Officials are confident that the near four-hour ceremony will run like clockwork on July 26
  • On the day of the eagerly-awaited event, around 200 Olympic delegations will join the parade on more than 80 boats

PARIS: Curious onlookers gathered on bridges as dozens of boats snaked along the Seine river on Monday in a rehearsal for the Paris Olympics’ unique opening ceremony next month.

A total of 55 boats made the journey from Pont d’Austerlitz, named after a French military victory in 1805, to Pont d’Iena, a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower, the nation’s most striking and best-known landmark.

Officials are confident that the near four-hour ceremony will run like clockwork on July 26.

“Six months ago we had like 10 minutes delay on the timing and today we are very close, almost to the second to our targets,” Thierry Reboul, the executive director for ceremonies said. “So it is very satisfying. We’ve respected an extremely precise level of timing.”

On the day of the eagerly-awaited event, around 200 Olympic delegations will join the parade on more than 80 boats. They will make the journey from east to west, along a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) route which has become a major talking point — for its audacity as a unique open-air event and for its exposure to potential danger.

Security concerns led French President Emmanuel Macron to say in mid-April that the ceremony could shift to Stade de France if the threat level was too high. But Reboul said Monday that authorities are preparing for the big day as originally planned, with no alternatives being prepared at this stage.

There will be a final rehearsal, involving the full armada of boats, before the opening ceremony — one which is expected to bring 100 world leaders to the city’s embankments, where more than 300,000 people will watch.

“We will give our heart and souls to make it a great success for the French people,” France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said Monday. “They deserve it.”

The rehearsal saw 10 police speedboats shadowing the convoy, as well as speedboats equipped with television cameras. There were armed police officers stationed at various points along the way. The boats crossed 16 bridges, passing by iconic landmarks such as the green-tinged Grand Palais — where fencing and Taekwondo events will be held.

On each bridge, a few dozen people watched attentively.

“Fifty-five? That’s a lot of boats,” said 49-year-old Rosa Gabriel. Taking a break between walking from the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, she watched it from the Pont des Arts bridge — fondly known as Love Lock Bridge, with its thousands of personalized locks attached to the railings.

One tourist even mistook the scene for something else.

“Maybe they are making a movie,” said Driss El Kaoutari, a 42-year-old from Morocco who was on vacation in Paris with his daughter.

What people actually saw were empty vessels bobbing slowly by. But they will be full of life, color, sound and movement next month.

“You will have many delegation members on the boats with their uniforms and their flags,” Reboul said. “Around them there will be many other things, as you can imagine.”

The water itself has become a sensitive and thorny topic for the organizers and politicians heading into the July 26-Aug. 11 Paris Games. A whopping $1.5 billion investment has already been made to improve the Seine’s water quality, with Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo both promising to take a dip.

This time, it was Oudea-Castera’s turn to give assurances about the river — where marathon swimmers and triathletes are set to compete during the Olympics.

She bristled a little when answering.

“Regarding the quality of the Seine’s water, we are confident. You shouldn’t ask us to be ready ahead of time,” Oudea-Castera said, adding that a new center for collecting waste will be opened next week.


West Indies thrash Afghanistan in final T20 World Cup group game

West Indies thrash Afghanistan in final T20 World Cup group game
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

West Indies thrash Afghanistan in final T20 World Cup group game

West Indies thrash Afghanistan in final T20 World Cup group game
  • Nicholas Pooran’s blistering 98 off 53 balls highlighted a dominant batting effort by West Indies

GROS-ISLET, Saint Lucia: West Indies thrashed Afghanistan by 104 runs in the final group stage game of the T20 World Cup on Monday.
Nicholas Pooran’s blistering 98 off 53 balls (six fours, eight sixes) highlighted a dominant batting effort by West Indies as they piled up 218 for five after being put in as the two Super Eight qualifiers sparred in advance of the next phase of the tournament starting on Wednesday.
Afghanistan were bundled out for 114 off 16.2 overs in reply.