The first EVER UFC event in 2024, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk’s undisputed showdown plus the Asian Cup in 2027… the major events in line to take place in Saudi Arabia as it looks set to secure the 2034 World Cup
- Saudi Arabia looks set to host the 2034 World Cup after Australia pulled out
- The Kingdom will stage a range of sports and events in the coming years
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
Saudi Arabia looks destined to host the 2034 World Cup after its only rival Australia pulled out of the running – adding yet another jewel to its already glittering crown.
The Kingdom is unchallenged in its bid to stage the world’s most prestigious tournament, with other countries missing the October 31 deadline to express formal interest in becoming host. They would then have to table a signed bidding agreement by November 30.
With no suitors looking likely, the Saudis can look forward to welcoming some of the biggest stars in world football to the country, which has already staged a huge number of major sporting events already.
Boxing is becoming a huge draw in Saudi Arabia and some of the biggest bouts are being staged there – such as Tyson Fury’s crossover showdown against MMA star Francis Ngannou, said to have pocketed £50million and £10m each from competing in the fight.
But what other major events are being lined up in Saudi Arabia? Mail Sport breaks down everything else you can expect to see in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia – led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – looks set to secure the 2034 World Cup, but the Kingdom has lined up a host of other sporting events
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Fury has only just finished fighting in Saudi Arabia after his closely-fought win over Ngannou in Riyadh, but he is set to return to the country next year once he is fully recovered from fighting the Cameroonian.
The Gypsy King has signed a contract to fight Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi, with the fight originally schduled for December 23.
But after Fury unexpectedly suffered a bruising contest against Ngannou – which saw him knocked down in the third round – he will now need to take more time before putting himself up for such an important clash, which will see the winner crowned as undisputed world champion.
The fight is now likely to take place in February.
His promoter Frank Warren said: ‘Tyson can’t be going into a camp after a tough fight like that. That’s eight weeks away.
Tyson Fury has signed a contract to face Oleksandr Usyk in an undisputed showdown set to be held in Saudi next year
‘He needs at least a bit of time to get himself, his body, back into shape. Let it heal. Then get into a camp. It will be on early next year.’
Anthony Joshua, meanwhile, was scheduled to fight American rival Deontay Wilder in Saudi too before a changing of hands in the country’s boxing management means that match-up is on the rocks for now.
Saudi has already played host to Joshua vs Andy Ruiz in 2019 and also staged Joshua’s defeat to Usyk last year.
Dana White’s promotion has never put on an event in Saudi Arabia, having only ever put on fight nights in the United Arab Emirates – but it is set to jump on the Saudi bandwagon in 2024.
The UFC announced its first ever UFC event – UFC Fight Night 236 – would take place in Saudi on March 2, 2024.
The card will specifically take the ‘Fight Night’ form rather than a major pay-per-view event and will be in partnership with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority during Riyadh’s Season festival.
The UFC has agreed to stage its first ever event in Saudi Arabia next year under the ‘Fight Night’ promotion
Conor McGregor was among the names to react to the news – calling it ‘incredible’ as he targets his return to the sport.
‘Huge congratulations to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UFC on the major announcement! Incredible news! I am honored! Bravo, Turki Alalshikh.’
It comes after UFC’s merger with the WWE, which has staged many shows in Saudi Arabia since 2014 after penning a lucrative deal with the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia were confirmed as Club World Cup hosts back in February – and now it turns out that will be a dress rehearsal for the much bigger step up of hosting the biggest international sides for the 2034 World Cup.
Manchester City will be looking for their first ever Club World Cup title beginning on December 12 after winning the Champions League against Inter Milan last year as they prepare for the seven-team format held in Jeddah.
Alongside Pep Guardiola’s men will be Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds, who won the Asian Champions League, Egyptian side Al Ahly – winners of the African Champions League – Mexican team Leon, CONCACAF Champions League champions, and New Zealand’s Auckland City. They won the Oceania Champions League.
Champions League winners Manchester City are set to descend on Jeddah when the Club World Cup begins in December
They will be joined by the winner of the South American tournament Copa Libertadores – either Boca Juniors or Fluminense – and Saudi outfit Al-Ittihad, the winners of the 2023 Saudi Pro League who will be the host team.
Saudi will also host the 2027 Asian Cup for the first time, having been unveiled as hosts in February.
Saudi Arabia’s football team have won the competition on three occasions and will hope it continues to rise of Asian football around the world.
The country’s minister of sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said: ‘It is an honour to have been chosen as hosts for the AFC Asian Cup 2027 and this is a historic and exciting moment for football in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia will also stage the 2027 Asian Cup. The tournament was last won by Qatar in 2019
‘We believe the best days of Asian football are yet to come and we see this tournament as an opportunity to showcase all that’s great about the game here. Our experience in hosting major sporting and entertainment events means that we are ready to deliver and ready to warmly welcome fans from across Asia and around the world.
‘This will be an incredible AFC Asian Cup, made even more special by the passion of the Saudi fans. I would like to thank the AFC and all the Member Associations that have been involved in this process.’
First up in tennis will be the Next Gen Finals for Under 21s men’s players in Jeddah from 2023-2027, with the ATP making its first venture into events in the Gulf State.
The hardcourt competition has primarily been played in Milan since its inception in 2017 before the ATP began a bidding process to determine a new host.
The organisation eventually opted for Saudi Arabia, with the tournament’s prize money set to increase to £1.6m – up from the regular £1.1m.
This year the event will be staged in the King Abdullah Sport City facility from November 28 until December 2.
Tennis’ Next Gen Finals for Under 21s players will be staged in Saudi Arabia from 2023-2027
ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said having the tournament in Jeddah would help bring new audiences to the sport.
‘The ATP Tour is truly global and exploring new markets is central to growing the game. Bringing the Next Gen ATP Finals to Jeddah is our chance to inspire new fans, in a region with a vast young population, and unite audiences around tennis,’ ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.
‘Our congratulations go to Jeddah and the Saudi Tennis Federation. We look forward to building on the event’s incredible success together.’
A ‘Champions League’ of cycling is reportedly in the offing, with Saudi Arabia leading the charge to back it in 2026, which would effectively reshape the world tour – according to Global Cycling Network (GCN).
The Saudis have already dipped their feet into the golf world by securing an earth shattering merger between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, and now they are said to be eyeing up a similar groundbreaking move for the cycling sphere.
According to the Observer, the Public Investment Fund would be the group leading the charge for a restructuring of the cycling calendar – but claimed that the Tour de France organisation was a staunch opponent of such a move.
Saudi Arabia are said to be eyeing a new cycling league that would restructure the sport
The proposal would see a season-long league of top cycling events and is being driven by Richard Plugge – the manager of the Jumbo-Visma team.
Plugge said: ‘The world is changing around us and our competitors are not the other teams; our competitors are football, rugby, NFL, Formula One. We need to make sure we are future-ready as a sport. We have to make sure that in five years’ time this sport is bigger than it is today. Everybody will benefit from that.’
Saudi Arabia will host the inaugural Esports World Cup in summer 2024 – transforming an already existing tournament called Gamers8.
Gamers8 reportedly collected an overall prize pool of over £37m last year and that is only expected to increase with the revamped tournament.
The Kingdom is set to host the Esports World Cup in summer 2024, transforming an already successful gaming competition to bring in new audiences
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the new Esports World Cup would ‘push the boundaries of the industry’.
‘The Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry,’ he said.
‘The competition will enhance our progress towards realizing the Vision 2030 objective of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating new jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike.’
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