Doha, Qatar: The upcoming ONE 166 blockbuster event, which will take place at the prestigious Lusail Sports Arena on Friday, March 1, will not only revolutionize combat sports in Qatar but also open the country up many opportunities in the global sports landscape.
Zuhayr Al-Qahtani, the World Boxing Council (WBC) Middle East Champion, stated this.
Al-Qahtani, who will be taking on French-Algerian star Mehdi Zatout, a famous coach and Muay Thai fighter who will be coming out of retirement specifically for this match, told The Peninsula that he is delighted Qatar – a well-known sporting hub around the world – is hosting the event.
“There couldn’t have been a better place as hosts of this tournament, and I believe that the ripples of the event will be felt all across the globe,” he said.
In addition, Al-Qahtani believes that the footprint ONE Championship leaves in Qatar will endure, shaping the future of combat sports in the region. He anticipates a continuous progression, with future events making history and influencing the youth in the Gulf and the Arab world.
“2024 is a year of historic achievements, both for me and for ONE Championship. My goal is not just personal success but to become the first Saudi World Champion, leaving a legacy that transcends borders and inspires those facing challenges,” he added.
Contrary to the notion that boxing is not popular in the region, Al-Qahtani thinks that combat sports, particularly boxing, are gaining traction. He attributes the growing interest to factors such as exposure, elite facilities, and world-class mentors.
Al-Qahtani sees a cultural shift in the Middle East, fueled by the popularity of action-oriented content like combat sports anime, paving the way for the sport’s rise.
Al-Qahtani’s at the age of 12, began boxing as a means of self-defense to battle bullying when he moved from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to London, England for education. Guided by his older brother, who had a background in boxing and martial arts, he found solace in the discipline and artistry of the sport.
Remarkably, Al-Qahtani pursued a master’s degree in structural engineering while simultaneously embarking on his professional boxing career.
Conveying his admiration for ONE Championship, Al-Qahtani highlights its commitment to supporting athletes and standing by them throughout their careers. He sees ONE Championship as the ideal platform to draw curtains on his career, emphasizing the organization’s dedication to elevating athletes’ status and fostering a sense of unity with the “ONE” philosophy.
“I saw an opportunity with ONE, and I knew what ONE stands for. I saw the capacity of ONE, and one thing I do admire and love about ONE is that they do not let their athletes down. They stand by their athletes, they support their athletes, and they give them everything they are required to elevate their status,” Al-Qahtani said.
ONE 166: Qatar will be headlined by Reinier de Ridder vs. Anatoly Malykhin II for the former’s ONE Middleweight MMA World Championship. Undefeated Russian star Malykhin, who already holds both the ONE Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight MMA World Titles, is one victory away from making history as the first three-division MMA World Champion.
The card also features a rematch for the ONE Strawweight MMA World Title between defending champion Jarred Brooks and former titleholder Joshua Pacio, as well as a pivotal heavyweight MMA clash between India’s first-ever MMA World Champion, Arjan Bhullar, and Iran’s Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion, Amir Aliakbari. The winner will likely challenge Malykhin for his MMA heavyweight belt in the future.
*Tickets for ONE 166: Qatar are on sale now at the Virgin Megastore and Q-Tickets.
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