Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Asia is exploding with new promotions popping up all over the place.
The last couple of years have seen the emergence of Legend FC, Dare Championship, Road FC, the Super Fight League and, of course, the self styled 'UFC of the East,' ONE Fighting Championship.
The latest organization to emerge from the continent is Dubai FC in the Middle East. It put on its first show last month and attracted a crowd of around 1,100 to see a mixture of local and international fighters including former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco Rodriguez.
The man behind it is Tam Khan, an English fighter with Afghan roots who is a long term resident in Dubai and the co-owner of Contender MMA .
He took time out to discuss topics such as the development of Dubai FC and attitudes towards MMA in the Middle East.
How did you personally end up in the Middle East?
I came on holiday previously and fell in love with the place. I also noticed how it was booming everyone in the world was talking about Dubai and how it has the tallest building, best hotels, malls, beaches etc. But i noticed there was no MMA and i had a idea. Few months later i took the risk packed up & arrived in Dubai. I started the 1st MMA gym in the UAE and the rest is history.
How did the idea to from Dubai FC come about?
Well i had three goals as I landed in Dubai:
1 - Make the first full time MMA facility
2 - Produce a professional MMA fight team and...
3- start Dubai's first MMA Promotion and give the local fighters a platform to display their skills on.
Thank God I've had the opportunity to achieve all the goals and i feel very blessed. I just see Dubai as having the potential to be the capital of MMA in the Middle East and i will do what ever it takes to make that happen God willing.
What are your plans for Dubai FC, how many shows are you looking to put on etc?
Plans are to have a big show every quarterly & six fight night events a year to help the amateur fighters gain experience to get the opportunity to be on the main event someday. I want the MMA world to acknowledge MMA in the UAE and the level of fighters we have here so that someday a fighter from the UAE is on the main event of the UFC representing UAE MMA. Thats my dream.
What is your priority in terms of fighters, are you going to focus on Middle Eastern fighters or are you interested in absolutely everyone?
Obviously my main priority is to concentrate on local fighters allowing them the opportunity to display their skills to an international audience but I am interested in everyone. I want fighters from across the globe to see DFC as a legitimate promotion with good intentions. I want to put on the best show possible for the fans & build a world class promotion.
Is MMA popular in Dubai?
Yes it is becoming very popular now. Many MMA gyms are opening, there are many MMA apparel stores, local TV shows all the latest MMA events and my facility is absolutely packed with the demand being crazy for MMA classes. It's the fastest growing sport in the world for a reason and Dubai is starting to feel the effect. DFC 1 was a sell out and I had to turn people away at the door due to the capacity limit, that was a great surprise and made me realize that yes MMA is here to stay.
Is there a regulatory body whose jurisdiction Dubai FC comes under or are you self governing?
I mean there is no specific regulatory body for MMA in the UAE yet but we have certain governing bodies we had our licensing approved by in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Relevant sports councils & authorities.
Do many people in Dubai train MMA and if so is it more popular with locals or ex pats?
I mean my gym the Contender MMA Center is very busy and MMA is the most popular class in the center. It's a mix of expats and locals and it's great to see both communities interacting. Sport brings people of all creeds together and that's what i love to see. Even the fighters we have are from all backgrounds. At the first DFC event we maybe had 15 different nationalities take part.
Does Dubai FC have a TV deal?
Yes we have signed an exclusive deal with FX Middle East. This enables us to be shown across the Middle East, North Africa & even Korea. Its a major step forward and I'm very happy to be a part of this with such a great network with such a high reputation.
How do you see the state of MMA in the Middle East in comparison to other parts of the world?
I see it matching anywhere in the world in the coming years. I honestly think with the way the Middle East is booming, especially the UAE it can someday become the Vegas of Asia. I mean Sheikh Tahnoon owns a percentage of the UFC and when they came to Abu Dhabi we saw a crazy stacked fight card with a week of great events leading up to it.
I think its a matter of time till the UAE really becomes a hub for MMA. It's growing so fast and then we shall see middle eastern fighters on the big shows representing the region. Obviously at the moment its fairly new so we are a little behind the rest of the world but not for long. I think we will see some BIG names in the world of MMA fighting in this part of the world very soon.
Has there encountered any negativity towards Dubai FC or MMA in general, for instance people complaining it is violent, brutal etc?
Honestly i thought we would but surprisingly we have received nothing but positive feedback and support. It really is a great feeling to know people support the sport and see the art behind it. When I first arrived in Dubai four years back yes I received a lot of negativity but with a lot of hard work and educating people via projects like DFC it has become easier.
The people of Dubai & the UAE are very supportive of any project that helps promote the Nation & i feel at DFC we are doing that. Putting Dubai MMA on the map.
Anything else you want to add?
I would just like to thank everyone for there ongoing support in particular my team Tom, Ari, Ali and Harry, without them is be stuck.and hope you all join us for this ride. We have a Fight Night event on Friday 8th June at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai. This event will be concentrating more on semi professional fighters who will someday get the opportunity to be on the main card. For further updates on our events, news & information please log onto www.dubaifc.ae.