Fighting words: MMA jabs its way into Saudi Arabia with Jeddah clash set for December

Egypt’s Ahmed “The Butcher” Amir is one Arab fighter who is making a name for himself in MMA. (Brave)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Fighting words: MMA jabs its way into Saudi Arabia with Jeddah clash set for December

  • Bahrain-based Brave to put on MMA fight night.
  • Hoped there will be opportunities for young Arab fighters to take part as well as some big names.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will add mixed martial arts to its growing portfolio of international sports events when Brave Combat Federation hosts the Kingdom’s first MMA event this December in Jeddah. 
Brave is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. From Brazil to Indonesia, Mexico to Northern Ireland, the Bahrain-backed organization has hosted 13 events in nine countries in under two years. Later this month, the sports entertainment entity will host its first event in Africa when Brave 14 takes place in Tangier, Morocco on Aug. 18. 
As reported by Arab News in April, talks to host a Brave event in the Kingdom have been taking place for some time. CEO Mohammed Shahid previously said he was determined to have a presence across the King Fahd Causeway by the end of the calendar year. By announcing an event for December, he appears set to accomplish his goal with all the style of a last-round knockout.
“We are absolutely delighted to finally confirm Brave is going to Saudi Arabia,” Shahid said.
“Having a promotion that is born in Bahrain and considering the country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, taking Brave Combat Federation to the Kingdom is something we’ve always wished to do. It’s amazing to announce that we will finally be there this December. It was a priority for us to make sure we serve the Saudi market and we have managed to now do that.
“It has taken a little longer than we wanted, but we’re going there and are delighted to be doing so. Saudi Arabia is one of our biggest markets and the biggest in the GCC, so if we cannot feed that market it would be a great shame. They love fighting and MMA, so now is the time for us to give them what they are looking for.”
While the fight card will not be announced for another couple of months at least, Brave has a growing reputation for giving opportunities to young and hungry fighters from the region, be it Lebanese fighting in Kazakhstan or Egyptians in Brazil. Shahid called it “crucial” to have Arab fighters involved at Brave events, although added the desire to be involved in the Saudi Arabian fight night will make deciding the card difficult. 
“When you are talking to athletes, I have had some of our top guys ask if they can fight in Saudi Arabia because they know how big and important the market and youth support there is,” Shahid said.
“For this reason, it will be very hard for us to put on the card and make sure we have the right mix. 
“But the approach Saudi Arabia has taken today in terms of sports and entertainment business affords us an opportunity to go in there and show them that what we have is a successful event. It’s a great platform and the youth really is looking for a MMA platform, so we are very excited for it.”
As well as the Kingdom, Shahid also confirmed a further six events for the final four months of 2018. Next month will involve events in Colombia and Abu Dhabi, before Pakistan makes its hosting debut in October. A homecoming to Bahrain in November followed up by a trio of events in India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia will close out the organization’s busiest year yet. 
Founded by Bahrain’s Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Khalifa — the son of King Hamad — the federation has extended its global footprint to 14 countries across five continents, but the announcement marks the largest initiative yet from the sports entertainment group.
“December is going to be a busy month, but we’re determined to end strong,” said Shahid. “It will ensure that Brave Combat Federation does 12 events in a year for the first time and will also solidify what we are all about: A truly global mixed martial arts promotion, the fastest-growing in the world.”


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”