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Tam Khan and the Growth of MMA in the Middle East

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The UAE has been the scene of two UFC cards and will play host to ONE FC for the first time next Friday night. The country is the epicenter of MMA in the Middle East and no man has been better placed to track the progress the sport has made in recent years than Tam Khan. Khan is British born but of Afghan descent and boasts an MMA record of 6-3. He has been based in Dubai for several years and these days he is better known for his work as a coach and promoter than for his fighting exploits.


After spotting a gap in the market for an MMA gym during a visit to Dubai Khan decided to leave his friends and family in London behind to start a new life in the UAE. “I’ve been here since July, 2008. I came many times before on vacation and fell in love with the place but I couldn’t find a gym to train MMA and I thought to myself ‘that’s strange, it’s the most talked about city on earth but it is doesn’t have any MMA’. The rest is history, I packed up and moved to Dubai with a goal,” he told Fightland. First Khan founded Contender MMA, which was the first facility of its type in the UAE, and then he started up Dubai FC which has put on four cards to date and featured the likes of Paul Daley and Ricco Rodriguez.


The MMA scene in the UAE has expanded rapidly since Khan first arrived and as awareness increases among the local community the profile of the sport is higher than ever before. “It’s developed tremendously, I remember when I first arrived people didn’t know a single UFC fighter, it was a niche amongst a few hardcore fans and there were no MMA gyms, no events, no fighters. When I started teaching and spreading the word and bringing the likes of Royce Gracie and Wanderlei Silva over the buzz spread and more gyms followed suit, many more fighters were produced and now it’s a popular sport.”

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