Emirati fighters to compete in World Games 2022 and Thailand’s ‎Royal World Cup after Expo 2020 Dubai’s Muaythai Nights qualifier

Three Emirati fighters came out on top in Expo 2020 Dubai’s Muaythai Nights held in the Sports Arena on Saturday (26 February), and will represent the UAE on the world stage later this year.

The event, consisting of the Super 4 Tournament, the WMC Intercontinental title and the WMC World Championship, took place under the auspices of the World Muaythai Council (WMC), the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA), and the UAE Muaythai and Kickboxing Federation.

The Super 4 Tournament kicked off the event, where eight fighters competed in three, three-minute rounds for the top two spots at the upcoming World Games 2022, taking place in Birmingham, Alabama, on 11 July. The final also consisted of three, three-minute rounds.

The men’s super-lightweight category saw Malaysia’s Elias Ghazali Zulfikar and the UAE’s Noureddine Samir fight for a spot in Alabama, while the welterweight category saw Kazakhstan’s Nurtaza Jumakhanov go head-to-head with the UAE’s Mohammed Mardi. Samir and Mardi walked away victorious, and both Emiratis are set to represent the UAE in the USA this summer.

The WMC Intercontinental title witnessed a showdown between France’s Valentin Thibaut and Uzbekistan’s Bobirjon Tagaev in a fight that was five, two-minute rounds.

Thibaut won in the fourth round, when the medical team stopped the fight after Tagaev sustained an injury, to everyone’s disappointment. Thibaut said: “Thank you to my team, my dad, my boss and my wife. She’s here today and she is always by my side. I love you!”

The most anticipated event of the night was the WMC World Championship, which saw four men and four women champions from different parts of the world battle in five, three-minute rounds for a chance to participate in the Royal World Cup – the biggest sporting event in Thailand.

The women’s bantamweight category saw Italy’s Sveva Melillo win the world title after a gripping bout against Australia’s Yolanda Schmidt. Melillo said: “I want to thank my Muaythai family and the organisers for putting the event together.”

The women’s featherweight fight was between Rebekah Irwin from the USA and Anaelle Angerville from France. After a tough bout, Angerville was declared the winner, and said: “You can’t imagine what this means to me. I want to thank my family and my coach, and all of you for support. I’m proud of myself. It was very hard last year, but I did it! I’m a lioness! I’m a warrior!”

The men’s competition started with the men’s lightweight category. Russia’s Gusein Aliev faced Napalan Lamnamoonlek from Thailand, and despite the Russian having longer limbs and a height advantage, Lamnamoonlek was declared the winner by a unanimous decision.

The evening finished on a high note with the main event. American Aaron Ortiz and Emirati Ilyass Habibali put on a gripping fight to determine who would walk away with the men’s light-heavyweight title. Where previous fights saw competitors try to get a feel for their opponent in the first round, Ortiz and Habibali came out at full speed. By the third round, both fighters were visibly starting to tire, though neither was willing to give in to the fatigue. Ultimately, it was Habibali who was crowned champion, and he will join fellow countrymen Noureddine Samir and Mohammed Mardi on the international stage.

The stands were packed with fans of all ages throughout the eight-hour event, and they were eager to watch the fights and see who would emerge victorious, while waving and cheering every time the camera caught them as they appeared on the screens.

(Subcribe to BritishHerald : Samia Suluhu Hassan | Mama Samia- Madam President | British Herald Magazine Jan-Feb 2022)

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