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Sweden's Samuel Bark wins UAE Warriors world featherweight title

Chief organiser Darwish recalls journey of reaching 50th event milestone while speaking to Aletihad
19 May 2024 16:49

KUUMAR SHYAM (ABU DHABI)

On Christmas Day in 2018, when most of Abu Dhabi was out celebrating and attending events, Fouad Darwish got a call from Abdulmunem Al Hashmi, the President of UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation who also got re-elected President of the Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union early this month.

The Chief Executive Officer of Palms Sports, the management company of the promotion, recalls while speaking to Aletihad: "His Excellency wanted to revive the Abu Dhabi Warriors. Ideally we would have liked three-four months to prepare, but we had to do it in a month's time. And by God's grace, not only did we do it, but it became so huge that we have gone from strength to strength and now we are here."

When Samuel Bark of Sweden upset the applecart of Jordanian defending champion Ali Al Qaisi in the main featherweight title bout of the UAE Warriors 50 on Saturday night, it completed the half century milestone for an event which has seen a meteoric growth in reputation and a great story of revival.

In fact, the weekend at Mubadala Arena saw a double-header celebration with the UAE Warriors 49, focusing on Arab and African fighters, serving another great appetiser on Friday night before the international card.

When we were given the privilege of rejuvenating the Abu Dhabi warriors, we would have never believed we would reach the 50th anniversary at such height," Darwish said. 

“It’s only our fifth year during which two and a half years were interrupted by the pandemic. They were unprecedented times but being in Abu Dhabi, nothing derails our objective of becoming an international event. Sometimes you do things and you don't take note of them. To have 798 fighters from 112 nationalities living in over 100 countries to come to Abu Dhabi in five years is a success.

“Our coverage is global, being aired on UFC Fight Pass is a credit to Palms Sports and UAE Warriors. We introduced the UAE Warriors Arabia and then the UAE Warriors Africa, and for the first time we have unified it as Arabia-Africa. There is impeccable talent that needs to be highlighted and that's what we have done at UAE Warriors."

"We are ranked and seen by many as the top organisation in the Middle East, if not Asia. There are organisations with bigger budgets, bigger history, bigger track record, bigger team, more TV exposure... but we know where we stand in the world of MMA. We're not there. But what is going to hold us up to be there? There is a lot of talent out there; so many fighters are asking us for a chance."

"Sometimes we are really privileged because we know what fighters are getting elsewhere; yet, they want to fight for the Warriors and they are content. And this is something we have built over the years."

Darwish mentions some highlights over this journey as worth mentioning while also taking pride in the fact that they get to promote the brand UAE Warriors as a private company.

"It may not matter, maybe, but the manner of our restart was quite memorable," Darwish said.

"To achieve what we did at short notice and inside a few weeks around the New Year was something that gave us a lot of belief in what we are doing."

"One of the fighters, Mohamad Osseili, came to us when he was only 16 years old. Today he's doing his seventh fight. We are an entity that believes in enabling dreamers."

One highlight has to be the UAE Warriors 8 when we introduced women's fight. That was, I think, brave, if that's the right word because there were some doubts. But I'm going to tell you a true statement, I hope you put it as is. Every single female fighter that came and fought at UAE Warriors was a best match [of the night]. 

"And more than 80%, I don't want to put names, have elevated their talents to the UFC or bigger tournaments," he said.

One of the biggest successes from the event's history is the rise of Manon Fiorot. The French woman is currently ranked second in the UFC flyweight rankings after cutting her teeth at the UAE Warriors.

 

 

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