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The Ultimate Fighting Championship's much-discussed debut in the Middle East is expected to be announced in one week.
The press conference for UFC 112, which will take place April 10, is expected to include the announcement of three top matches, including two championship bouts.
"We're going to have a big press conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, with our new partners from the region, Flash," said Marshall Zelaznik, the UFC's managing director of international expansion. "[Zuffa CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] and myself will be there with some of the biggest names on the UFC roster. I don't want to give away the official announcement, but this will be a very unique show and not just because the card itself will be as good as any in UFC history."
The card is expected to feature the return of Anderson Silva (25-4), ranked No. 1 in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings. The middleweight champion will defend his title against former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort (19-8). Silva hasn't fought since an Aug. 8 win over Forrest Griffin and his subsequent elbow surgery.
B.J. Penn (15-5-1), ranked No. 4 in the same poll, is expected to defend his lightweight title against Frankie Edgar (12-1).
The third headline match is a battle of legends with two-time welterweight champion Matt Hughes (44-7), at 36 years old, facing Renzo Gracie (13-6-1), who will be 43 come match time. The match is significant for a couple of reasons.
For one, Hughes finished Renzo's first cousin, Royce Gracie, on May 27, 2006, in Los Angeles in what was at the time the biggest pay-per-view event in UFC history.
For another, Renzo Gracie, who hasn't fought in three years since a disqualification win over Frank Shamrock in the first MMA event ever on Showtime, can in many ways claim some responsibility for the show taking place in Abu Dhabi.
Gracie was the jiu-jitsu instructor for Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ruled the country from 1966-2004. Sheik Tahnoon grew to love the sport so much that he brought many of the world's best submission fighters to Abu Dhabi in 1998 for the first Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Fighting Championship.
The sheikh has attended several UFC events in person, and on Jan. 11, Flash Entertainment, an arm of the Abu Dhabi government, purchased 10 percent ownership in Zuffa, the UFC's parent company.
The show is scheduled to be the first outdoor event in UFC history, as there is no suitable indoor arena for such an event.