As much as I support Robbie’s enthusiasm for MMA and his excitement for ‘Fight Island’ I think it needs a dose of reality. Nobody including myself wants it like this but we have to consider what is taking place in Abu Dhabi.
So there’s probably a few reasons why MMA shouldn’t stay in Abu Dhabi.. most notably the fans across Europe and America who supported the growth of MMA and want to attend the live events.
But there are two more serious reasons why MMA or any sport for that matter shouldn’t stay in Abu Dhabi. Reasons which strong democratic countries who value freedom shouldn’t overlook.
1# Indentured Slaves
So the Middle East, including the UAE is an amazing place. Take Qatar for example, they are building temporary hotels, air-conditioned stadiums and entire transport networks dedicated to the 2022 World Cup at a tune of $1 billion a week. A $220 billion budget. But there is plenty of evidence that places like Abu Dhabi are built using immigrant workers from Asia and Africa who are poorly paid and housed in terrible accommodation.
But what’s worse is the workers are often forced to sign multi-year contracts and their passports taken away until they complete their contract. Does MMA really want to take advantage of people in order to get ahead, that isn’t what sport stands for. That is cheating.
2# Homosexuality is Illegal
Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable by imprisonment of up to 14 years. Several news reports have revealed how the law is typically enforced. Cross-dressing is likewise illegal. Again, do we want sport to participate in a country where lifestyles which people have thought to legalise in western society as part of their freedom to live the life they choose are seen as sinful? People have been arrested in bars for just touching someone on the hip to motion them out the way, something that takes place in bars as standard throughout western society. How are MMA fans going to enjoy an environment like that?
These two factors create a clear clash of cultures and values between western society and the Middle East. One which will begin to bear down upon MMA if it remains in Abu Dhabi.
As Newcastle United are currently experiencing with their proposed sale to the Saudi Arabia state-run investment fund. It’s not just sunshine and beaches that the world of sport should consider when doing business with the Middle East. In some countries people are put to death for acts which western society considers a person’s free will and personal choice.
The world is incredibly complex and there is no easy answer.