Is WMMA legal in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia WMMA laws explained ahead of the UFC's historic first fight card.
Claressa Shields at 2024 PFL vs Bellator event
Claressa Shields at 2024 PFL vs Bellator event / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Women's sports in Saudi Arabia have long been a contentious issue, often shrouded in controversy. This is due to the conservative Islamic religious laws within the nation, which have historically suppressed female participation in athletic activities. Despite this challenging backdrop, the nation has been making gradual strides toward gender inclusivity in sports. This shift is part of a broader movement towards social reform in Saudi Arabia, aimed at improving the rights and opportunities available to women.

While boxing has settled into Saudi Arabia, the sport of mixed martial arts is a fairly new one. Regardless, the combat sports landscape continues to change, and so does the role of women in sports in the nation. Within this evolving landscape, one area that has garnered significant attention is women's mixed martial arts. The question that stands - is women's MMA legal in Saudi Arabia?

Is women's MMA legal in Saudi Arabia?

The short answer is yes. Women are legally allowed to compete in mixed martial arts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The longer answer would be that, although it is legal, not many are capitalizing on the opportunity. In fact, there has only ever been one women's MMA fight in Saudi Arabia thus far.

Women's MMA fights in Saudi Arabia

The PFL vs. Bellator event that took place in February was a truly historic moment. It symbolized the start of the relationship between the two promotions but there was another historic moment on the card. The early card featured a women's super lightweight bout between Claressa Shields and Kelsey DeSantis. The fight went the full three rounds before Shields managed to pick up the win via a split decision.

With their fight, Shields and DeSantis' bout became the first female mixed martial arts bout in Saudi Arabia. Shields took it further by claiming the title of the first woman to win an MMA bout in the Kingdom. Shields had made her pro-MMA debut in 2021, and this bout in Saudi Arabia was only her second fight. This was DeSantis' promotional debut. Regardless, they both made history together. Following that, the promotion hosted their first PFL MENA event in Riyadh. The event featured an amateur women's atomweight bout between Hattan Alsaif and Nada Faheem.

Has the UFC had a women's MMA fight in Saudi Arabia?

The UFC is only set to have it's first event in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, June 22. The event is set to be headlined by the middleweight bout between Robert Whittaker and Ikram Aliskerov, and they headline an 11-fight card.

Various divisions are represented on the card, including the Road to UFC Season 2 bantamweight tournament final. But there is a lack of women's fights on the UFC Saudi Arabia card. On the other side, the UFC's partner in TKO - WWE - has quite a long-standing history with Saudi Arabia. The pro-wrestling powerhouse has been hosting events in Saudi Arabia since 2014.

In 2018, the promotion began with pay-per-views and premium live events emanating from Saudi Arabia, with the Greatest Royal Rumble event. The most recent WWE event in Saudi Arabia took place on May 25 with the King and Queen of the Ring event. The next event from the WWE to take place in Saudi Arabia will be Crown Jewel in November. By then, hopefully, more MMA promotions would have also joined the party.