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Dubai Emirate using MMA to promote ‘sports tourism’ 

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On Monday, June 25, Premier Global Championships (PGC) hosted a press conference announcing a new MMA venture in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The conference took place at the Dubai Sports Council office and was attended by PGC executives, stakeholders, and a handful of professional fighters, including former UFC lightweight Rashid Magomedov.

The press conference served as the official launch for the promotion, as well as an opportunity for its executives to present its tournament-style framework. Aliaziz Ismalilov, the founder and president of PGC, explained that the promotion plans to host international, multi-event tournaments involving teams from 12 different countries.

”Over the past couple months, we have been working with, and meeting, key MMA sports professionals to bring our PGC concept to life,” Ismailov said at the press conference. “With the support of our partners and these sports professionals, some sitting here beside me – Rashid Magomedov, Magomed Sultanakhmedov, the Dubai Sports Council, JK58, Magomed Magomedov – we have developed this Premier Global Championship series that will entertain, inspire and continue to grow this exciting global sports segment.”

The PGC tournament series will consist of 12 separate fight nights, each featuring eight fights. Two of the eight fights will be title bouts. The dates and locations are yet to be finalized, though the promotion expects to host its inaugural event on December 7, 2018, while the season finale will take place the following April in Dubai.

”It is our goal to involve all participating countries to host a fight-night of their own, yet the playoffs will be hosted here in Dubai where it all begins,” said PGC co-founder Nikolay Slobodyanyuk.”Unlike other MMA events, PGC will focus on the fighters and the creation of an entertainment experience for fans that truly measures up to the skill-set and excitement-value of the fighting scene. It is our goal to involve all participating countries to host a fight-night of their own, but the playoffs will be hosted here in Dubai where it all begins.”

While the promotion has been established in the UAE, it was founded by two little-known promoters who filled the press conference with fighters from the North Caucasus region in Southern Russia. Fighters such as Rashid Magomedov, Magomed Sultanakhmedov, Magomed Ismailov, and Ali Isaev were in attendance, as well as Russian MMA referee Magomed Magomedov, who will serve as the promotion’s matchmaker. Nurmagomedov Magomed, the director of the Eagles MMA Club, was also present. Many of them were pictured alongside members of the Dubai Sports Council.


The Dubai Sports Council was founded on November 30, 2005, following a decree issued by UAE vice-president, prime minister, Dubai Ruler H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bi Rashid Al Maktoum. The Crown Prince of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, serves as the chairman of the council, which was established with the goal of being an “inclusive, modern and sustainable sports environment.”

It is also worth noting that PGC is “supported” by the Dubai Sports Council, according to the press release, and is being promoted on their official website. While it remains unclear whether this refers to financial support, it is evident that the venture is expected to be mutually beneficial for the promotion as well as the Dubai government. According to their website, the council will “continue supporting government and private entities and organizations in order to enhance development of all sectors in the Emirate of Dubai.”

The PGC press conference that took place in June was attended by stakeholders and members of the Dubai Sports Council. Ali Al-Bannai, the manager of the society and sports section of the council, was present to discuss the importance of competitive sports in cultivating a healthy society. Al-Bannai also added that PGC would “provide a unique entertainment platform for sports tourism growth.”

”The sport is experiencing strong growth in the number of martial arts practitioners, which in turn has increased the number of martial arts gyms, so the council is attempting to support the organization of this tournament,” Al-Bannai explained. “Sports are one of the biggest platforms that promotes tourism in Dubai so we continue to support and encourage the organization in Dubai.”

The idea of using sports to promote an increase in tourism is nothing new. Global sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics have long been sought out by potential host nations because of the spike in tourism enjoyed thereafter. Events such as the Formula-1 race also leads to an increase in tourism in lesser known destinations like Azerbaijan and Bahrain. The use of MMA as a source of sports tourism is an uncommon approach given the violent nature of the sport, as well as its niche status across the world. While this may be the case, there are several other reasons why a country would want to promote MMA to a wider audience.

According to Al-Bannai, “the Dubai Sports Council is keen to organize and support activities that promote awareness of the importance of sport among society.” This suggests that the government of Dubai is also interested in promoting the various benefits that come from participating in sports, which includes increased discipline, and improved health and lifestyle.”

The Dubai Sports Council also plans to use sports as a means to improve diplomatic relations with other countries. The latest example of this was the council’s announcement that they planned to seek a means of sports cooperation with Poland to improve the “deep-rooted economic and cultural relations between UAE and Poland.”

Therefore it is evidently clear that the Dubai Sports Council — an extension of the UAE government in the Dubai Emirate — is using its position to attempt to boost bilateral relations between countries, promote healthier lifestyles among locals, and attract flocks of tourists.

“The idea enhances Dubai’s position as a favorite international sports destination.” Al-Bannai concluded.

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