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.”


Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

Updated 17 August 2018
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Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

  • New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
  • Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.

LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history. 
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom. 
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”

Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday. 


Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test. 
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”