UFC Saudi Arabia: New date and the big law change after 70+ years

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Last year, we got the report that UFC is going to do a Saudi Arabia card in 2024. Dana White told media members that Vince McMahon was ‘key’ in making that deal. Now, that card which was originally planned to be on March 2nd is pushed back to June 22.

Initially, Ariel Helwani came out with the information that the event was postponed on Saudi’s request, because the hosts deemed the proposed card not being satisfying for their appetites. Dana White came out after UFC 297 to deny these claims, stating that it was UFC’s initiative to postpone the event, because UFC wants to put on the greatest Fight Night in the history of the company.

With many athletes becoming available on that June date, the UFC is absolutely going to make a special, stacked card for this Fight Night. We are sure to have an event that resembles a PPV more than a UFC Fight Night. But, the question now is: what are the potential matchups for the Saudi event and with this alcohol ban lift – some new, wild options might be in for the UFC.

Saudi Arabia lifts alcohol ban after 70+ years – Conor McGregor returns?

We’ve all seen McGregor’s eccentric announcement for his future fight with Michael Chandler. Conor claimed the fight will happen at the International Fight Week (scheduled for June 29th according to McGregor, but not confirmed by the UFC yet). 

On Thursday, news broke out that Saudi Arabia lifted the alcohol ban and will allow alcohol sales for the first time after 72 years! In a now deleted tweet/X, McGregor reposted the news, celebrating the kingdom’s decision.

The details of this change of law state that alcohol will be available in specialized stores, exclusively for the non-Muslim diplomats. This means that the majority of the Kingdom’s population won’t be affected by this new policy. Although, this is a very big step in allowing alcohol, after the country’s 1952 prohibition.

Back to MMA now! What does this mean for the UFC and can Conor McGregor be involved in the first UFC Fight Night card, since 2015? Obviously not your ordinary UFC FN event, as Dana White acknowledged that the Gulf kingdom operates on a ‘different level’ when it comes to hosting events. That can mean one thing – a little tweak and Conor McGregor fights on UFC’s Saudi Arabia card!

From his originally made out plans to compete on June 29th, this would’ve been a minor change that moved his plans for a week earlier, in order to stack the Riyadh card. As nothing is for certain with McGregor these days, this is just speculation and a possible option. Primarily a step in the direction of opening for tourists, this decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can also bring back MMA’s biggest star on the planet.

Team Khabib/Dagestan fighters to be on UFC Saudi Arabia – Islam and Umar

Ramadan starts on the evening of March 10th this year and lasts for 30 days, until April 8th. In that timeframe, some famous Muslim fighters of the UFC won’t be able to compete, but will be ready just in time for June’s Riyadh card.

Islam Makhachev is the number 1 star for the Dagestan camp (currently competing in the UFC) and stands as the pound-for-pound king today. He is probably the most famous Muslim fighter on the roster and currently the most dominant champion in the UFC. Originally scheduled to have a rematch with Oliveira, Makhachev faced Alexander Volkanovski in a rematch, the last time he competed in the Octagon.

Scoring a 1st round knockout of the featherweight king – Islam Makhachev seemingly put an end to this rivalry and climbed the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. The Dagestan fighter claimed after the bout that he can break all the records and just wants the UFC to give him the opportunity, by placing worthy opponents in front of him.

With many fans still craving that Charles Oliveira rematch, Islam could face the Brazilian former champ in Riyadh. All the plans and the matchmaking should be revealed after UFC 300 though, as Justin Gaethje has a chance to claim that number 1 contender spot himself.

Umar Nurmagomedov finally getting back in the Octagon

Lately, Umar Nurmagomedov has been very vocal on his social media accounts, claiming that his best years are being wasted by just training hard at the gym and no one wanting to compete against him. Certainly, one of the most avoided fighters in the UFC right now – Nurmagomedov has a point.

Truth be told, Khabib’s cousin and one of the brightest bantamweight prospects in the world did go through a shoulder surgery in late summer of 2023, so he was removed from competing for a couple of months. Now, back in full shape, no one seems to want that fight against him, according to Umar and his manager Ali.

Simply, the absolute domination and destruction of his opponents thus far, puts him up there as the most dangerous Bantamweight fighter in the UFC. A possible opponent for his return would be Cory Sandhagen. ‘Sandman’ and Umar were already scheduled to fight on August 5th, but that was the time when Nurmagomedov had to go for shoulder surgery. 

As both athletes are now seemingly 100% and coming off of their respective surgeries – there is no better time and place for that fight to happen then June 22nd, UFC Fight Night: Saudi Arabia. What are some other matchups that you would like to see on this card? A possible Khamzat Chimaev return? Let us know!

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