How Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou showed the future of sports in Saudi Arabia?
The year 2023 marked the beginning of a thrilling journey in the realm of sports for Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, October 28, the city of Riyadh, the nation’s vibrant capital, became the stage for an extraordinary clash that transcended sporting boundaries. This monumental event featured English boxing legend, Tyson Fury piting against Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou, a former heavyweight champion of the UFC, the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) league. This showdown brought together two superstar fighters from different disciplines, sharing the same ring.
The choice of a boxing match as the opening spectacle for the kingdom’s largest sporting and cultural event was no coincidence. Saudi Arabia, in recent years, has made substantial investments in various sports, not only limited to the allure of soccer and the speed of Formula 1 but also extending to the fierce world of combat sports.
Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou
When Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou agreed to engage in this epic showdown, the Saudis exhibited their keen interest, organizational prowess, and remarkable logistical capabilities, signaling a significant shift in the sporting landscape.
This battle marked a profound shift in the nation’s sporting landscape and hinted at the significant role Saudi Arabia aspires to play in the world of sports.
The world’s eyes are turning to Saudi Arabia as the nation embarks on a spending spree in the world of sports. Critics have labeled this investment as “sportswashing,” an attempt to launder the image of an authoritarian regime. Yet, the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, remains resolute in his vision. The primary goal is not just image enhancement but to boost Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and place it firmly on the global stage.
Other Major sports Saudi has invested in
Investment in Football
Saudi Arabia’s investment in sports extends across a diverse range of disciplines, making it a key player in the global sporting landscape. The acquisition of an 80% stake in the Premier League club, Newcastle United, for £305 million ($372 million) was a watershed moment. This strategic investment was followed by substantial sums poured into player acquisitions, aiming to elevate the status of Saudi Arabian soccer on the world stage. The acquisition of renowned soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Neymar Jr. and many others have further solidified Saudi Arabia’s prominence.
$2 billion investment in Golf
The kingdom’s foray into golf has been equally transformative, with an estimated $2 billion investment in LIV Golf, a breakaway competition. This move attracted global golf luminaries such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka. The competition is set to offer an astonishing prize money pool of $405 million, signifying a substantial reshaping of the professional golf landscape.
Investing in combat sports
The sports investments are not limited to soccer and golf. Saudi Arabia has become a host for high-profile sporting events, including multiple WWE shows, heavyweight boxing fights featuring Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Francis Ngannou and the Formula 1 Grand Prix held in Jeddah since 2021. These events have further solidified Saudi Arabia’s reputation as a hub for major sporting spectacles.
The Gulf state will also host an undisputed heavyweight battle between champion fighters Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, which boxing promoter Frank Warren describes as “the biggest fight that could possibly be made in our sport.”
Saudi Arabia has extended its reach into the realm of mixed martial arts (MMA) by investing through the SRJ investment fund, a subsidiary of the formidable Public Investment Fund (PIF), which was projected to amass $620 billion in assets by 2022. The PIF became a minority shareholder in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), an emerging global MMA league, reinforcing the kingdom’s foothold in the world of combat sports. Moreover, speculations have surfaced among sports enthusiasts that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier MMA organization, will hold its first-ever event on Saudi soil in 2024.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving the economy
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the driving force behind Saudi Arabia’s sports investments. His vision extends far beyond “sportswashing” – it is a holistic approach aimed at strengthening Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and enhancing its appeal to a younger demographic. The investments made in sports are instrumental in achieving these goals, and the Crown Prince remains unwavering in his commitment.
In conclusion, Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou signified more than just a sporting event; it embodied Saudi Arabia’s transition into a sports powerhouse. The kingdom’s multifaceted investments in various sports have reshaped its role on the global stage, transcending criticisms of “sportswashing” and driving economic diversification. Riyadh, as the world’s spotlight turns to Saudi Arabia, appears to be on the cusp of an exciting era in the world of sports, setting the stage for a future that promises both excellence and economic growth.