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.”


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 14 min 2 sec ago
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.
Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.
As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.
It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.
Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.
Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.
Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.
The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.
Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.