According to Andrei Arlovski’s manager, the UFC is returning to Russia on April 20th.
Anton Glazyrin revealed the news to Russian news site TASS, saying “The next fight for Andrei Arlovski will be held in St. Petersburg. Who will be a rival is still unknown.”
According to MMA Team Dagestan, a regular source for breaking news out of Russia, the event will be held in the newly constructed Gazprom Arena, which holds over 65,000 people for World Cup soccer games and could potentially hold 80,000 people for an UFC event.
⚡UFC returns to Russia on April 20. The event will be held at the newest stadium in Russia with a capacity of 80 thousand people.— MMA TEAM DAGESTAN (@MMATeamDagestan) January 11, 2019
It is not yet clear whether the event will cover the whole arena or limit itself to a part of. #UFCSanktPetersburg pic.twitter.com/p7R9vCKLVO
This would be the second UFC event held in Russia following the promotion’s debut in the country in September of 2018. That event, UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Oleinik, saw 22,603 fans descend on the Olympic Stadium in Moscow to witness Alexey Oleinik submit Mark Hunt with a rear-naked choke in the first round.
Unfortunately for the UFC, their biggest Russian star Khabib Nurmagomedov is unlikely to compete at the event. He’s still sitting on the sidelines awaiting an NSAC punishment for his part in a brawl following his win over Conor McGregor in October. That hearing is set to go down on January 29th and a suspension of up to 2 years could be handed out.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Russia operates outside of the US commission system and there’s technically nothing stopping the UFC from ignoring any sanctions placed on their star fighter. But the promotion has never defied a commission suspension before, so we wouldn’t book any tickets to Saint Petersburg on the faint hope Khabib will be headlining.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of local talent to fill the card. Zabit Magomedsharipov, Ali Bagautinov, Alexey Oleinik, Alexander Shlemenko, Rustam Khabilov, Mairbek Taisumov, Adlan Amagov, and Rashid Magomedov are all hot UFC prospects that could make an appearance. And yes, Andrei Arlovski’s status as a past champion still carries a lot of weight internationally, even if his best days are behind him.
We don’t think the UFC will have a problem selling 80,000 tickets in Russia at all. As for the rest of us, the April 20th card is currently being listed as airing on ESPN+.