Due to the success of new fighters from the Middle East, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been gaining more popularity within the region. To celebrate we’re looking into the region’s top fighters who have made their mark at the UFC.
Born in Chicago, Illinois to Palestinian parents, Muhammed took up wrestling throughout his years in high school and he slowly honed his skills to become an incredible fighter. In 2016, he debuted at UFC Fight Night 90, although he lost this face-off against Alan Jouban, it didn’t stop him from continuing the struggle for his dream. A few months later he returned in a fight against the renowned MMA fighter Augusto Montaño to win with a TKO (technical knockout) in the third round. He’s become an emblem of hope as he represents Palestine and told Arab News in an interview that he considers himself to be a “voice for people that don’t have a voice, for people that the world wants you to forget about. So, if I keep shining a light on that, raising their morale, raising their hearts, I’m going to do whatever I can.”
Al-Silawi, often known as the Jordanian Lion, is one of the first Arabs to compete in the octagon and one of the most well-known fighters promoting mixed martial arts (MMA) in the Middle East. It’s interesting to note that he was raised, born, and trained in MMA all within the borders of the Kingdom of Jordan. On Sept. 21, 2018, he defeated Carlston Harris to win the Welterweight Championship in the Brave Combat Federation, the biggest MMA promotion in the Middle East according to Arab America. This has enabled him to compete against a wide range of competitors who employ various boxing, wrestling, and grappling techniques.
Mounir Lazzez, also known as “The Sniper,” was one of the first Arabs to make it to the UFC. Lazzez is a native of the city of Sfax and has Tunisian ancestry. He currently trains in Dubai, UAE, and competes in the UFC’s welterweight division with a record of (10-2-0). On Yas Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Lazzez made his UFC debut for the first time in July 2020. He defeated Abdul Razak Alhassan there to win his first-ever UFC fight. Lazzez is pleased to be an Arab, having been born in Tunisia and trained in the UAE according to Arab America. He has grown to be so powerful that he is now referred to as “The Middle Eastern Conor McGregor” by various Arab news outlets.
Abdelwahab, who represents Egypt, is a former Olympic wrestler and is also known as The Hammer. Before being signed by the UFC as the first-ever Egyptian in the history of the company, he had only competed in 5 MMA contests according to King Fut. The choice was made after Abdelwahab demonstrated potential in his early career by winning all five of his fights in the Heavyweight Division by knockout, four of which occurred in the opening round. As a result, with only a 12-day notice, the 29-year-old made his UFC debut at the UFC 277 preliminary event.
In Oct. 2020, “The Royal Fighter,” as he is known, made his UFC debut on Fight Island. Ali Al-Qaisi, like Al-Silawi, is a Jordanian national who resides in Amman when he is not fighting abroad. With an 8-5-0 record, Ali Al-Qaisi competes in the Bantamweight Division at the moment. He has outlined his pride in serving Arabs worldwide, and Jordan in particular, in a manner similar to Lazzez. Before his UFC debut match, Al-Qaisi received several letters of encouragement from his Arab fans according to Arab News.
With those new fighters and the popularity of the sport within the region, Dana White, UFC President, announced that the company has huge intentions for the Middle East after being impressed with Abdelwahab and many other Arab fighters’ performances, especially considering how rapidly tickets for events in Abu Dhabi are selling out. In fact, he said:
If you look at what’s going on over in that region right now with not only this company but the sport. I said 10 years ago you’re going to see some good guys coming out of this region and now we’re really starting to see it. So I just expect it to grow.Dana White via ArabsMMA