July 3, 2022

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a leader who guided UAE sports to new heights

His Highness, The President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has always demonstrated passion and a keen understanding of sport, characteristics that have helped put Abu Dhabi at the forefront of the rapidly expanding sporting scene in the UAE.

Sheikh Mohamed carries forward the legacy of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his father, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, as a sports-loving head of state who can maintain the same level of integrity in the promotion and governance of all games.

His love for combat sports in particular is well documented. He was instrumental in the rapid growth and popularity of Jiu-Jitsu not just in the UAE or the Middle East but globally.

A long time advocate of the Brazilian martial art, Sheikh Mohamed formulated the plan to ensure that Jiu-Jitsu was taught at all schools in the country and he helped establish more martial arts training centres.

He also urged the private and public sectors to back Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts by sponsoring them in the quest to excel and represent the UAE on the world stage.

Sheikh Mohamed was inspired at a personal level when he noticed his son’s attitude developing after taking up the sport. He felt that if it can work with his son it could have a positive impact across the country. He is a devout Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

Under his leadership, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts flourished and took on a bigger focus when major UFC fights were staged at the purpose-built Fight Island at YAS featuring some of the world’s best fighters including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva and Kamaru Usman.

And it was under his visionary leadership that Abu Dhabi hit global headlines on July 12, 2020, for becoming the first city in the world to successfully and safely host a world-class sporting event — the UFC Fight Island Series — following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had brought the sporting world to a screeching halt.

UFC President Dana White was so impressed by Abu Dhabi that he hailed it as the fight capital of the world, following the glorious success of the UFC Fight Island Series.

Under his guidance, the Al Ain Football Club emerged as the most successful club in the UAE, winning a record 14 UAE Pro League titles, seven President’s Cups, five Super Cups, three Federation Cups and two League Cups.

They are also the only UAE club to have the AFC Champions League, Asia’s biggest club tournament.

Sheikh Mohamed is also a passionate Formula One fan and is a regular visitor to the annual FIA showpiece at the purpose-built F1 circuit on YAS Island.

Sports like tennis, golf, squash, basketball, netball, skiing, sailing and many more have flourished under his guidance

He was among the first dignitaries in the world to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant after the iconic basketball star died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.

He was also instrumental in bringing the NBA to Abu Dhabi as the Capital gears up to host two pre-season games in October this year.

Sheikh Mohamed personifies confidence, dignity and positivity which will go a long way in ensuring UAE sport reaches an even higher level under his leadership.