Saudi Arabia in talks to host Brave MMA fight night

Ahmed "The Butcher" Amir is just one of a number of Arab MMA fighters taking the sport up a level across the region.
Updated 16 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia in talks to host Brave MMA fight night

  • Fight night set to take place in Kingdom later this year or in early 2019.
  • MMA growing in popularity across the Arab world.

Played out in front of a boisterous Brazilian crowd on Friday night, Brave 11 was hailed by the country’s local press as “one of the best MMA nights of the year.”
Now Arab News can exclusively reveal discussions are taking place between fight organizers and officials in Saudi Arabia to host a Brave event in the Kingdom later this year.
Brave Combat Federation is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. The weekend’s event in southeastern Brazil was the 11th Brave event in 18 months and the 13-bout fight card provided everything, from titles and tap-outs to sold-out seats, pools of blood and last-minute, gut-wrenching breaks.
Founded by Bahrain’s Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the organization has already held fight nights in seven countries, including Jordan, UAE, Mexico, India and Kazakhstan. The next event, on May 11, will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, but Mohammed Shahid, CEO of Brave, revealed a similar spectacle in Saudi Arabia is already in the pipeline.
“Saudi is a country that enjoys MMA,” Shahid said.
“There are a lot of fans there that love MMA and there are Saudi fighters who have competed at the regional promotions. We are very excited to be putting on an event there either later this year or early next year, but we are still in discussions. It’s definitely a part of our plan though — there is no question of if; it is a matter of when.” 
Shahid continued: “We want to do many events in Saudi Arabia, but we want to do it the right way. We want to make sure that when we enter the market and give an event to them in their country that we do it properly. We want to make sure we provide them with the best product, the best fights and make sure we all enjoy a great night.”
On Friday, the main event featured Lucas Martins, a former UFC fighter who hails from the host city. He won the Lightweight belt in front of his friends and family with a fifth-round TKO. It came at the end of a ferocious night of fighting that included the fight-card’s two Arab fighters, Ahmed Amir of Egypt and Lebanon’s Georges Bardawil, both leaving the venue bruised and defeated. Amir lost by TKO, while Bardawil lost by unanimous decision.
Shahid said regardless of the results, watching Arabs fight on international cards brings the company “great satisfaction” and is “a sign of the success that Brave is creating.” He insisted however that there is no favoritism when it comes to selecting fighters. While the long-term goal of the company is to eventually change the entire sport in terms of the way it is organized — “to move it away from where the promoters decide the futures of the athletes” — for now Brave is focused on giving opportunities to athletes from parts of the globe that traditionally MMA has overlooked.
“Certainly when we see Arab fighters competing on such important cards around the world it gives us great satisfaction and is a sign of the success that Brave is creating,” said Shahid.
“It is crucial for us to have Arab fighters involved. But it’s also important that we have fighters from Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, Europe, Latin America. We want to give everyone an opportunity.
“The Arab fighters are a great example, however, of how we have given a platform to guys from a new region. It is not that they did not have a platform before, but we are giving a platform to compete at the highest level, to get more fans internationally, and showcase their talent around the world. We provide them with a chance to step outside the GCC and test themselves at a higher level.”


Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

Updated 18 January 2019
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Maria Sharapova looks back to her best as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal show no signs of slowing down

  • Sharapova dumps out defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.
  • Rafa and Roger brush aside young guns in straight sets victories.

LONDON: It is coming up to the end of the first week of the Australian Open, so we thought we would take a look and see how some of the big names fared on day five of the year’s first Grand Slam.

MARIA SHARAPOVA

Maria Sharapova warned she is in the sort of form to win the Australian Open after she dumped Carolina Wozniacki out with an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. It was the Russian’s best win since her return from a drugs ban and she looked like a winner-in-waiting.
“I thought the level was quite high. I knew I’d get a tough match — she (Wozniacki) is the defending champion,” the five-time Slam champion said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year against top players so it was really rewarding to win that last set. These are the kinds of matches I train for.”



ROGER FEDERER

Ageless Roger Federer marked his 100th Rod Laver Arena match Friday by storming past Taylor Fritz, then looked forward to a “high quality” last-16 clash against another young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 third-round demolition of 21-year-old American Fritz in just 88 minutes of flawless tennis.
Next up is 14th seed Tsitsipas. And the 37-year-old Federer is looking forward to taking on the fiery young Greek, who is 17 years his junior.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” Federer said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”



RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal declared “everything is a step forward” after brutally brushing aside Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open Friday in just the Spaniard’s third match since the US Open.
The world No. 2 was in ominous form as he continued his quest for an 18th Grand Slam by punishing the Australian teenager in a third-round tennis masterclass 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me,” said the man who won the Aussie Open in 2009.
“I’m very happy for the victory against someone who had won seven matches in a row, winning a tournament.”
On his fitness Nadal added: “Probably 10 years ago it would have been difficult not playing much tennis in the build-up but now I have been in this situation many times with the injuries I have had.
“I have to deal with the ups and downs of my body but I try to enjoy any moment on the court.”



MARIN CILIC

The former US Open champions was made to work for his place in the last 16 as he struggled to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Verdasco showed glimpses of the form that once made him a top-10 player and had a match point, one he frittered away with a double fault.
I was just slightly luckier in those crucial moments,” the sixth-seeded Cilic said.
“(It is) unbelievable. Emotions were up and down,” Cilic said.
“When I was down two sets to none, it was a big hill to climb.”
It’s the seventh time in Cilic’s career that he has emerged to win a match after dropping the opening two sets.



ANGELIQUE KERBER

Second seed Kerber received a gift ride into the Australian Open fourth round for her 31st birthday when she overpowered local wildcard Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.
The Wimbledon champion swept world No. 240 Birrell aside in just 58 minutes to set up a last-16 clash with unseeded American Danielle Collins.
Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, said she was used to celebrating her birthday on the road at the season-opening Grand Slam.
“I think it’s the 12th time in a row,” she said. “I’m getting older but I have the best time here and I’ll never forget my birthdays here in Australia.”
Kerber reached the semifinals last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.