BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil: There are few more cheerless sights in combat sports than seeing a beaten fighter, freed from their facade of invincibility, sobbing uncontrollably.
Ahmed Amir, the Egyptian who left his wife and seven-month-old daughter at home in Kuwait to follow his fight dream, arrived in Brazil full of confidence but finished heartbroken and hospitalized after being brutally beaten inside two rounds.
Amir was one of only two Arabs on the 13-bout fight card that marked Brave 11, but both he and Lebanon’s Georges Bardawil left the cage with their records tarnished. While Bardawil lost to Carlos Soares by a unanimous decision, Amir saw his bloody fight with Cleiton Silva stopped midway through the second round when, fighting with a broken nose, his mouthguard fell to the mat for a second time. The stoppage came moments after he had complained he could not see because of blood streaming down his face.
Silva, who took his record to 13 wins from 15 fights, had struck the bridge of Amir’s nose inside the opening 30 seconds as the Egyptian attempted a takedown in what was his first fight outside the Middle East. With blood gushing from the open wound, Silva capitalized, pounding his opponent on the ground with a series of savage fists and forearms to the face. The Egyptian managed to escape and, after having his pupils checked, insisted he could continue. Yet when the second round brought more of the same, the referee mercifully intervened.
“There was a lot of blood, usually I knock them out before it gets to that stage,” Silva told Arab News backstage at the Esplanada do Mineirão. “It was over from the moment I broke his nose, but he refused to surrender. Respect. He was a tough opponent. Fighters are proud and I think that pride spurred him to keep going."
Amir lay stricken on a stretcher as he was assessed by medics before a decision was taken to transport the 27-year-old to a nearby hospital for scans and further checks. As he left, an icepack was pressed against his nose, his left eye was swollen over, and his chest heaved from crying.
Earlier in the evening, Bardawil had struggled against an opponent who stood three inches taller.
The 24-year-old appeared to underestimate the local Soares’ ability on the mat, and consequently fell victim to a series of ground strikes. Like Amir, Bardawil showed plenty of heart to keep fighting as elbows rained down on his skull and by the third round the Lebanese found his range.
With the bout drawing to a close and Bardawil knowing he would lose on points, he worked a guillotine choke and would have most likely won had his opponent not been saved by the bell. The judges scored it unanimously 87-82.
“Another 10 seconds and I would have won,” said Bardawil, whose record now reads 6-2-0.
“I was slow to start and my mistake was that I didn’t think he was good at wrestling so I tried to take him down. He was better than I expected, but I’ll learn from this experience — that’s why I never really lose. I’m very disappointed, though. I still can’t quite believe it.”
There were to be more tears too in the main title fight when Luan Santiago, coasting to a points win over Lucas Martins in the fifth round, tried to cushion a slam with his arm and suffered a gut-wrenching break. Martins claimed the Brave interim lightweight belt.