On his first trip to Dubai, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson recalls getting off a plane wearing a traditional Muslim cap and robes, carrying a Quran and expecting to find a society strictly governed by conservative mores.
He was in for a surprise.
This is “a party place, a place you have a good time at. This is like New York City, man!” Tyson exclaimed during an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.
“That’s what people think. They think of Dubai as some real strict Islamic place. ... This place is so open. It’s just unbelievable.”
Speaking from a penthouse overlooking Dubai’s man-made Palm Jumeirah archipelago, Tyson said he believes a city like Dubai can show people the best of the Middle East, its people and Islam.
He told the AP during a wide-ranging interview that his new project franchising Mike Tyson Fitness & Boxing Academy locations worldwide fits in perfectly with the sheikhdom’s desire to always be out front.
“People come over here and love this place. It’s just what it is,” he said.
“I’ve been all over the world ... and everything they’ve got there, they’ve got here.”
Tyson converted to Islam while serving prison time in the 1990s over rape charges. He said he has performed the hajj pilgrimage required of all Muslims, as well as other trips to holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
Tyson, once known as the baddest man on the planet, was known for his explosive punching and quick knockouts.
In Dubai, he and his business partners hope to open franchises of his new gym. Tyson said he will be involved with the gyms and their direction. His partners offered few details about when and where they will open, other to say one should be in Las Vegas in 2018.