More than 300 competitors from 26 countries will vie for honours in the IFMA Asian Muaythai Championship staged for the first time in Abu Dhabi in the history of the event.
The five-day championship takes place at a custom-built tent at the capital’s Breakwaters from Tuesday.
His Excellency Abdullah Saeed Al Neyadi, Chairman of the UAE Muaythai and Kickboxing Federation, welcomed the competitors, officials and guests saying the Emirates was their second home.
“We are delighted to host the continental championship only two years after the UAE federation was founded,” he said.
“It’s indeed a remarkable achievement for a young federation. Having said that, we now want to stage one of the most memorable Asian Championship that everyone will remember for a long time.”
Tareq Al Muhairi, the championship director, said the stage was elaborately set to host the first Asian Championship in the region and use it as a platform in Abu Dhabi’s bid to host the World Championship in 2020 or 2021.
“We have left no stones unturned for the success of this continental championship,” he said.
“Abu Dhabi has a proven track record in hosting world-class sporting events and we are confident we have the management expertise, infrastructure and facilities to host the Muaythai World Championship.”
Talal Al Hashimi, Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s Director of Sports Development Sector, hailed the muaythai federation’s achievements in such a short time.
“To host the continental championship with 26 countries and more than 300 competitors in just two years of the federation’s formation is highly commendable,” he said.
“We wish all participating nations the very best in the championship and wish our guests and officials of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations a pleasant and enjoyable stay in the Emirates.”
Stephan Fox, General Secretary of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations, said the UAE created a huge impact by winning a gold medal at the 2018 World Championship.
Ilyass Habibali struck gold at the World Championship in Mexico and followed up with a bronze at the Asian Championship in Macau last year. He will be spearheading the host nation’s medal challenge in Abu Dhabi.
“It certainly helped the organising body when choosing the host city for this year’s Asian tournament,” Fox said of Habibali’s achievement.
“The UAE are now one of the front-runners to host the World Championship and that will be decided after the conclusion of the Asian Championship.
“There is a lot at stake aside from winning medals at the Asian Championship. The points they earn gets accumulated for them to qualify for both the 2021 World Games and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.”
The participating countries: Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Nepal, Philippines, Taiwan, Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and the host UAE.