FiveOuncesofPain.com has recently received reports from multiple sources extremely close to the situation indicating that the UFC has recently sold a minority percentage of the company to Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of the former United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Sheik Tahnoon is well known throughout the grappling community as the founder of the no-gi submission Olympics, the Abu Dhabi Combat Club. Himself a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, Shiek Tahnoon has been a long time supporter and practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu.
With a current estimated population of 896,75, Abu Dhabi is the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi currently possesses 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves and nearly 5% of the world’s natural gas. In 2007 Fortune Magazine named Abu Dhabi as the single richest city in the world.
Many of you will remember UFC President Dana White posting the following message on August 3 of 2009:
Been on a plane for 20 hours. Just landed in abu dhabi!!!
Of course this was the message that raised the eyebrows of many in regards to attempting to decipher exactly what had caused the UFC figurehead to make a trip to such a distant and seemingly unlikely location.
Perhaps Dana was negotiating to have some of his athletes take part in the upcoming ADCC in Barcelona, Spain, which was scheduled for late September. As a matter of fact, several notable fighters from both the UFC and WEC had been listed to compete in the tournament before all of the names from the promotion were removed from the bout list in the days leading up to the event.
It wasn’t until the first of November when we heard anything new on the UFC/Abu Dhabi front, and this time it was Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta making the return trip to wealthy Middle-Eastern city, who tweeted the following during his stay:
Here in abu dhabi with renzo gracie. Do you want him to fight in the ufc?
Then it was the UFC 105 post-fight press conference on November 14 when White went even more into detail on the circumstances surrounding his and Fertitta’s recent trips to Abu Dhabi, stating, “We’re sending some of our crew there tomorrow. They’re flying out of here in the morning, and it looks like we’re going to do a fight in Abu Dhabi. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to figure out how this thing we’ll work. I don’t have a deal, but I’m pretty confident that we’re going to make one.
“I really don’t have any details other than that we’re working on it, and we’re confident that it will happen. I like Abu Dhabi. It’s a pretty cool place.
“Obviously, everybody knows Shiek Tahnoon is a huge jiu-jitsu guy. He’s a Renzo Gracie black belt. He’s very into jiu-jitsu.”
Skip ahead to December 2 and this time it was both Dana and Lorenzo who chose to take a brief getaway to Morocco of all places to meet up with Sheik Tahnoon where the pictures seen below were taken.
White jokingly played at freeing an incarcerated former UFC fighter from a local prison during the trip in this tweet:
In morocco to bust lee murray out!!!!!
Of course FiveOuncesofPain.com has received information from several sources indicating that the trip had little to do with busting Murray out of jail, and everything to do with a major deal between the UFC and Sheik Tahnoon.
A week later the UFC president had this to say in regards to his recent trip to Morocco in an interview with MMAFanhouse.com, “We were doing a deal out in Morocco. What I was in Velenzuela for is top secret.”
5 Oz. has been further notified by several sources that have indicated that Sheik Tahnoon’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor, Renzo Gracie, played a key role in brokering the deal between the two parties. We have been further informed that key components of the deal included Gracie’s signing by the UFC, along with the Renzo’s participation against Matt Hughes in Abu Dhabi.
FiveOuncesofPain.com has made multiple attempts to contact the UFC regarding this situation but have yet to hear back from the promotion. We will keep you up to date as soon as we receive any type of official comment from the UFC.
(UPDATE: The UFC has confirmed that it has sold a 10% stake of the company to Flash Entertainment in Abu Dhabi, and while both Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White have confirmed that they met with Renzo Gracie in Abu Dhabi, they have since reported that he had nothing to do with the negotiating of the deal.)