Can you spot what’s missing from the UFC’s latest event in Saudi Arabia? Why one of the Octagon’s biggest attractions was DROPPED for latest promotion

  • UFC held its first event in Saudi Arabia last weekend 
  • Had one big difference from previous tournaments 

The UFC’s first event in Saudi Arabia was a big success and featured some entertaining fights – but was also notable for dropping one much-loved part of its famous promotion.

It was an exciting evening of action at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, with Australian Robert Whittaker needing less than two minutes to put away undefeated opponent Ikram Aliskerov in the main event.

However, some eagle-eyed fans noticed there were no Octagon Girls – and no female fighters – at the landmark event.

The break in tradition was driven by respect for local Saudi customs and is a big move for the UFC, which has stood up to protests in the past over its sometimes controversial use of card girls.

There were no Octagon Girls at the UFC’s landmark event in Saudi Arabia last weekend – and no female fighters, either

Mixed martial arts, like boxing, often has bikini-clad women walk around the cage holding up signs showing which round is on next (pictured, UFC Octagon Girls)

Mixed martial arts, like boxing, often has bikini-clad women walk around the cage holding up signs showing which round is on next (pictured, UFC Octagon Girls)

In 2019, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the ‘sexist and backward’ tradition of card girls was ‘outdated’.

UFC President Dana White slammed the ‘ridiculous calls’ from Australian politicians, claiming that the girls are an integral part of the show.

‘Our Octagon girls, they’re as much a part of the UFC brand as anyone, they’re ambassadors for our sport,’ the UFC boss hit back.

He insisted that the UFC treats women better than any other sport.

‘I’d suggest these people calling on them to be banned go have a look at what these girls do with the company, the type of money they’re making,’ he said.

‘Do that and you’ll realise these girls are as important to our brand as anyone else in the company. And that’s exactly the way we treat them.’

UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov stirred controversy in 2021 when he labelled ring girls ‘the most useless people in martial arts’, sparking backlash from the likes of Conor McGregor and well-known Octagon girl Arianny Celeste.

He said: ‘What is their function? I think they are the most useless people in martial arts. What function? How? What are they doing? Tell me please.’

Some eagle-eyed fans noticed that Octagon girls were absent from the event and weigh-ins at the UFC's first tournament in Saudi Arabia last weekend (pictured)

Some eagle-eyed fans noticed that Octagon girls were absent from the event and weigh-ins at the UFC’s first tournament in Saudi Arabia last weekend (pictured) 

Dana White (right) and Saudi Arabia's Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, Turki Al-Sheikh (centre), were pleased with the event

Dana White (right) and Saudi Arabia’s Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, Turki Al-Sheikh (centre), were pleased with the event

At a post-fight press conference on Sunday, White said the Saudi event was a huge success.

‘Yeah, it was amazing,’ White said.

‘Obviously, our first time in the kingdom and my first time here. It was a great experience. We’re looking forward to the next one.’

Saudi Arabia’s Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, Turki Al-Sheikh, was also impressed with the tournament and said he is interested in showcasing female MMA fighters at the next event in the country.

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