Women on the Next UFC Saudi Arabia Card? Saudi Minister Wants Just That

Rogers Arena, UFC 289, Vancouver, Canada Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Extremely noticeable on this past Saturday’s UFC Saudi Arabia card was the lack of any sort of female talent, but that may soon change.

The UFC made its debut in the Kingdom in Riyadh on June 22, with a card headlined by Robert Whittaker vs. Ikram Aliskerov (stepping in to replace Khamzat Chimaev). The end came swiftly, with Whittaker finding the finish inside of the round.

No women fighting, however, is a rarity for the UFC these days, but with no female broadcasters either- nary a Megan Olivi or Laura Sanko in sight – many pointed to Saudi Arabia’s abysmal record on women’s equality as the culprit.

Per a report by Human Rights Watch, in Saudi Arabia “Women face systematic discrimination and are left exposed to domestic violence under the male guardianship system” which leaves them under the control of men from birth until death.

That said, Saudi Minister and Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, Turki Al-Shaikh, says he’s looking for women to compete the next time the promotion comes to down.

Speaking on the UFC Saudi Arabia broadcast on Saturday (h/t MMA Junkie), Al-Shaikh stated that “I know the UFC here has a lot of fans, but you see now, it’s changing my mind. I don’t think there’s a lot of fans like this, 12,000 until 1 a.m., and now I am asking Dana for the next card. We want to make it 30,000 here. We are waiting, and we want women also in the next fight.”

Women in action in Saudi Arabia would not be unprecedented – WWE, now a sibling of the UFC under the TKO Group banner, has frequented the Kingdom in recent years. In 2019, Natalya and Lacey Evans performed at that year’s Crown Jewel event, albeit while wearing bodysuits and t-shirts rather than traditional ring gear, as Saudi law dictates dressing “modestly.”