Oli Thompson and Tarek Suleiman will fight for the light heavyweight title at the UAE Warriors MMA event in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
One of the UK’s pre-eminent big show veterans, Oli ‘The Big Shot’ Thompson will square off against Tarek Suleiman from Syria in a high-profile light heavyweight championship bout to held as part of the 6th edition of the MMA fight series UAE Warriors scheduled to take place at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
For the first time in its history, this edition will feature title fights in three different weight divisions, including featherweight, welterweight and light heavyweight. The UAE Warriors fight card also carries a prize purse of $100,000.
Making a late but starry entry at the Shangri Hotel in Abu Dhabi for the face-off ahead of the bout, Thompson grabbed the championship belt and warned his rival that “it’s mine”.
Exuding confidence, the English strongman -- who has stints in the UFC, KSW, Bellator, BAMMA, IGF and ROAD FC -- looking straight into the eyes of his opponent, made his intentions clears of walking away with the title.
“I have spent my whole career fighting guys bigger than myself. This is not new for me but I still want to get the job done, said Thompson, who has racked up an impressive 19-10 record.
“My opponent has pretty good Jiu-Jitsu credentials but I have always faced world champions and he will have to bring his A-game to face me otherwise I will walk with the crown after flooring him,” he added.
Unfazed with Thompson’s antics, the Syrian stayed calm. “I have a lot of respect for my rival and everyone here. He can take that belt and keep it by his side but on Friday it will be decided in the cage that who will lay his hands on the title.”
Billed as an explosive and a much-charged fight on the card on Friday -- following a war of words going on for the last one month -- ‘The Shadow’ Ahmed Labban will face Amin ‘Fierceness’ Ayoub. Both fighters were seen exchanging barbs during the press briefing, taunting each other till the end.
Labban, who was injured and unsure of taking part in the UAE Warriors till getting a green signal from his doctor, vowed to settle the score in the cage and issued a warning that he would end Ayoub’s challenge for welterweight championship with a single fist.
“With one fist on your face you will know it. I need not be 100 per cent fit to fight someone of your calibre.”
Tunisia’s Ayoub and Labban have been taking digs at each other on the social media for quite some time, with Ayoub calling his opponent a ‘chicken’. He went on to add that the Lebanese should not take injury as an excuse later but rather pull out straight away.
The Filipino community will again will be in full force to support Roland Dy when he takes on Kazakh Yerzhan Yestanov for the featherweight title belt.
Last week, the Filipino community celebrated Annie Ramirez’s first gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship after four years of trying.
Dy is hoping to use the inspiration of his previous successful appearance in the UAE, which came at an Abu Dhabi Warriors event, to help him be victorious.
“I was here in January and won by a knockout and want to replicate that result in front of my fans,” he said.
A number of fighters who participated in Abu Dhabi Warriors’ fifth edition will return to this edition, either to continue their win streak or to avenge their loss.
Most notably, Emirati fighter Ahmed Al Darmaki returns to secure his second consecutive win in the championship; this time against Azouz Anwar (0-2) from Egypt.
After a very closely-matched performance in the previous edition that resulted in a split-decision win, Yousef Wehbe (6-6) from Lebanon and Leandro Martins (7-1) from Brazil face off once again in a highly-anticipated rematch, where both of them will be seeking a decisive win by KO or submission over his opponent.
India’s Suraj Bahdur will be taking on Dwight Brooks of the US in the lightweight category.
The organisers will donate a percentage of all revenue from registrations and sponsorship toward the programme.
The championship, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will take place from 20th to 26th April at Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi.
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