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.”


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”