UFC stars Islam Makhachev and Belal Muhammad took the time to prepare for next week’s UFC 280 with a visit to Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai on Tuesday.
Makhachev, a frequent visitor to the United Arab Emirates, headlines the Abu Dhabi event at the Etihad Arena on October 22, when he takes on Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title. American Muhammad, meanwhile, takes on fellow welterweight Sean Brady. Makhachev and Muhammad trained for UFC 280 at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.
On Tuesday, the athletes were joined by various members of their team – UFC fighters Zubaira Tukhugov, Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Umar Nurmagomedov, and Bellator contender Usman Nurmagomedov – at Al Jalila Children’s, where they met young patients in hospital and on dialysis.
During the visit, the fighters posed for photos with the children, ages 5 to 11, and gave away signed boxing gloves and merchandise. The visit was organized as part of the #AJFSports Ambassador program of the Al Jalila Foundation, which promotes philanthropy in sports.
Speaking afterwards, Makhachev said: “We just came to the hospital to see these children because we want to make them happy. They are sick, so we can give them love, gifts. And I think they will watch our fights. I hope they recover quickly and go home soon.
Makhachev said the visit helped put into perspective next week’s title match in Abu Dhabi, the highest-profile fight of his 23-fight professional career.
“Of course, kids have bigger fights. My fight is not that important. If we only help them one percent, make them happy, that’s our mission. »
Muhammad, who like his teammates shared jokes with all the kids, said: “Honestly, it was an amazing experience. Just seeing the kids, what they’re going through and the struggles they’re going through, makes you think more about your life, about your silly little stresses, where these kids are fighting for their lives every day.
“You never want to see a child suffer; you never want to see a child go through this. But they are. So for me to be able to put a smile on their face and see them laugh or give a thumbs up and see them excited to see us is an amazing thing because it tells me that I’m fighting for something more big, more than just wins and losses.
Muhammad, 34, currently sits as the UFC’s No. 5 ranked welterweight contender. Brady is ranked No. 8.
“This fight is nothing compared to what people are really fighting for,” Muhammad said. “These children are fighting for their lives, for their health. You take for granted your health, your freedom to do whatever you want. These kids can’t go out and have fun with their friends. It breaks my heart; you just want to cry.
“But seeing the smile on their face makes you want to be strong for them, makes you want to be a better person, a better role model for them kids.
“They’re the ones who, when they see me on TV with my hand up, it’s going to lift their hearts, increase their energy.”
Tuesday’s visit was organized by Rashed Al Mohtadi, Head of Partnerships and Sustainability at the Al Jalila Foundation, and Hadi Foundation Ambassador Omar Al Hussaini. The Dubai-born Emirati, who competes with the UAE Warriors, has been training with Makhachev and his team since last year.
Al Hussaini said: “I know Rashed and I am a sports ambassador for the Al Jalila Foundation, so I know their vision and their mission. I know exactly what they do and how they help people.
“And we are a country that always gives. Humanity, giving to people in need, is number 1. So it’s the least I can do. When I told the team that we had kids who were big fans of you and the UFC, they all said we were going to do it as soon as possible. They are all happy to do something like that.
“For them, training is the priority, but also making a child smile is something that will push them even more in training. If you can give a person hope, give a child joy, that’s something you can’t even describe.
“God gives them fame, gives them a lot, that’s how you give back to your community, to your people.”
Inaugurated in November 2016, Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital is the first dedicated children’s hospital in the United Arab Emirates. The facility was created under the guidance of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
Updated: October 12, 2022, 08:29