The latest boxing hootenanny in the Middle East apparently left a marked impression on Deontay Wilder.

Wilder, the former heavyweight titlist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was in attendance this past weekend, in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, for the ballyhooed Jake Paul-Tommy Fury eight-round cruiserweight bout, which saw Fury, brother of Tyson, eke out a points win over Paul.

The fight, which was broadcast on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View in the United States, was another instance of the so-called Oil Kingdom’s continued investment into boxing. Saudi Arabia, but also Abu Dhabi, have hosted several high-profile boxing and combat sports events in recent years, thanks to its ability to generate outsize, above-market paydays, to say nothing of the region’s seemingly insatiable appetite for mainstream sporting properties. Last year, they played host to the FIFA World Cup. At the same time, the Middle East’s reliance on “soft power” has been characterized by critics as an attempt to scrub clean its numerous human rights violations, a practice referred to as sportswashing.

In an interview this past weekend, Wilder, who was seen dressed in the traditional Saudi Arabian garb, made it clear he aspires to fight in the region sometime soon. Wilder has noted that he thinks a potential fight with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou would make a lot of sense there, in addition to a slew of other big fights, including one with Anthony Joshua and a fourth fight with Tyson Fury.

“The discussions have been [promising],” Wilder told FightHubTV. “Especially over here [in Saudi Arabia], I believe this is the new hotbed for boxing. It’s a hotspot, and I love the structure and what they got planned with what they got planned and what they’re trying to do over her and what they will do.

“You can look forward to seeing me here as well in the Middle East.”

Wilder noted he plans to return to the ring “between May, June, and December.”

Wilder last fought in October, picking up a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It was the first fight for Wilder since his 11th-round knockout loss to Fury in their famous trilogy in 2021.

The Middle East has become an unavoidable presence on the boxing schedule in recent years.

Last summer, Saudi Arabia hosted the unified heavyweight championship between Joshua and WBO, WBA, IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.

In November, the WBA light heavyweight title bout between titlist Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez took place in Abu Dhabi.

Bivol’s promoter Eddie Hearn recently stated that he is working to stage a fight between Bivol and WBC, WBO, IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbeiv in Abu Dhabi for the summer.