The United Arab Emirates’ love for combat sports is one that might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the topic. However, everything starts to make sense when you account for the history and actions of UAE Sheikh and National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed.
Sheikh Tahnoun’s love for martial arts and combat sports dates back to the ’90s.
He became a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in 1993 after watching the first ever UFC fight between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) legend Royce Gracie and martial artist Gerard Gordeau.
Shortly after, then U.S. college student Sheikh Tahnoun signed up at a BJJ academy in San Diego as a white belt (the lowest ranking and experience level in BJJ).
This furthered his passion for martial arts and when he finally returned to the UAE in 1998 he had a goal: he wanted to create a flourishing martial arts scene in his home country.
It didn’t take long for Sheikh Tahnoun to do exactly that. The same year he got back to the UAE he founded the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) and the ADCC World Submission Fighting Championship.
Today, Sheikh Tahnoun is a black belt in BJJ and the ADCC stands at the pinnacle of combat sports with the UAE as homebase.
The ADCC Submission Fighting Championship is the largest grappling tournament in the world, and some of the best instructors and competitors in BJJ, MMA and other combat sports are based out of the UAE.
The Gracie family, the family that created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has the Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Dubai which is known as the leading academy of the Middle East.
Sheikh Tahnoun has also worked heavily with UFC President Dana White to bring UFC and MMA fights to the UAE.
They went so far as to construct Fight Island – a UFC arena on an island near Abu Dhabi created to host secluded fights at a time when the pandemic brought sports as we know it to a halt.
Through years of effort and continual planning from Sheikh Tahnoun, the UAE has become a combat sports capital of the world.