Turki Alalshikh has secured yet another boost to his Riyadh Season annual sporting series via a renewal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

In a public announcement on his official X/Twitter page, Alalshikh, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), unveiled the extension alongside UFC President Dana White.

The agreement will see UFC hold events in Saudi Arabia during the 2024/25 Riyadh Season. This will build on the MMA promotions Saudi debut event scheduled on 22 June this year at the Kingdom Arena, headlined by a middleweight clash between Robert Whitacker and Khamzat Chimaev.

Additionally, the agreement provides an overseas boost for Riyadh Season in the UFC’s founding market of the US. The annual sports festival will sponsor UFC 306 on 14 September, the first UFC event held at The Sphere venue in Las Vegas.

“This agreement is a continuation of Riyadh Season’s aims to host and partner with prominent and international events of mass interest,” Turki Alalshikh said.

“It also enhances our efforts for Riyadh Season to produce diverse content in order to engage and attract an even wider audience with different interests from around the world. UFC is the most prominent Mixed Martial Arts organisation in the world and their platform of global fans is unrivalled.”

As well as hosting a UFC event, Riyadh Season will also host its first Power Slap event under the deal. Power Slap is a slap fighting promotion owned by Dana White, currently in the midst of its second season.

The addition of Power Slap to the Riyadh Season will come as a big boost for the promotion, sharing the limelight with both the UFC as well as a series of other high-profile sports events across boxing, golf, tennis, and other areas that have found a new home in Saudi Arabia.

Power Slap’s premise and history is not complete without controversy, however. The health of participants has been cited as a particular area of concern for neuroscientists and even current UFC fighters like Sean O’Malley and former competitors like commentator Dan Hardy.

Commenting on the Riyadh Season deal, White said: “I’m excited about this deal. Obviously my goal from day one has been to bring this all over the world.

“We’re going to do our first event in the Kingdom this year, and now we just signed another one to do next year, plus I’m bringing Power Slap this year and next year too. We’re going into a new market, which is something I love to do.

“I love going into new markets, I love to break records, and to the people in Saudi Arabia who’ve never been to a live UFC event, you’re in for a real treat. No one walks out of one of our events and says ‘I never want to see one of these again’.”

The renewal of its arrangement with UFC continues the strong growth trajectory Riyadh Season has endured over recent years. The series was only set up in 2019 but has blasted its way onto the global sporting stage through several high profile events.

The addition of MMA, in which UFC is the clear global market leader – although other promotions like One FC and PFL are building up strong profiles – adds another layer to Riyadh Season’s already extensive presence in combat sports. 

The season has emerged as a major host of boxing events. Indicative of this, the upcoming undisputed heavyweight world title bout between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk on 18 May will be held in the Saudi capital.

RiyadOutside of combat sports, football, golf and tennis are also looking at the revenue opportunities Riyadh is posing. In an interview with Insider Sport earlier this year, CEO of WTA Ventures, Marina Storti, discussed the WTA’s decision to hold its finals in Riyadh for the next four years.

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