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.”


‘Not impossible’ that Formula E will overtake F1, says Felipe Massa ahead of Ad Diriyah race

Updated 15 December 2018
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‘Not impossible’ that Formula E will overtake F1, says Felipe Massa ahead of Ad Diriyah race

LONDON: Felipe Massa has acknowledged the possibility of Formula E becoming more popular than its more illustrious rival Formula One, ahead of his debut at the Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia today.
The Brazilian ace swapped the roaring engines of F1 for the blistering battery power of Formula E this season, and told Arab News that the idea was not “impossible.”
“On overtaking, Formula 1, that’s a difficult question to answer. But what can I say, is that it’s not impossible. We just need to wait and see how things go, (whether) it is ‘when’ or ‘if,’ but it’s definitely not impossible,” he said.
“Formula E and electric cars are becoming ever-more present, but it will definitely be the future, even in the short-term future.
“It (the technology) has already arrived in some countries and will in other countries, too, it is the future. I think Formula E has used that mentality, even five years ago to build this (motorsport) category,” he added.
Massa, who raced for 15 seasons in Formula One and won 11 grands prix, was also positive about the potential of Formula E as it continues to expand after its inception in 2011 and inaugural season in 2014.
“It will take a little bit of time, it’s not easy to get things perfect straight away, but look at the past two years and how much the championship is growing.
“When I say growing, it’s not just with the quality of the drivers, but also with manufacturers’ teams and companies, who are really getting behind the sport.
“Look how many companies they are signing on as sponsors, on many different levels, even companies that sell fuel,” he said.
“We are even racing (this weekend) in a country known as an oil country. So, I think this shows how much this championship is growing.”
Massa also agreed with comments made by F1 director Ross Brawn, who recently said that the highest level of motorsport had become too predictable.
“Only certain racers can win in Formula One, but Formula E is unpredictable and a good example (of that) is that the winners in all past seasons have been different drivers,” he told Arab News.
The affable driver said he is relishing the new challenge that Formula E will pose to his skills and abilities, adding that with the exception of certain parts of the Monaco and Mexico circuits, each track will be new to him.
“I like a challenge, there is a lot to learn and a lot to test myself with and learning the car, working with the team,” he said.
“Even though I’m experienced in motorsport, with my 16 years in Formula One, this is a new test and I will have to start from zero.”
Meanwhile, defending Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne said hearing the words “world champion” after his name was “still cool.”
When asked about the challenge from teammate Andre Lotterer on the other side of the Techeetah garage, the Frenchman was full of praise for the German driver.
“He is absolutely one of the most talented drivers, and I expect him to be on the same level as I am and, for sure, it’s going to be a nice competition between us.
“It will be good for the team, as that will push everybody, and that is what we want as a team.”
The former F1 driver was complimentary about Formula E’s new “attack mode,” but voiced concerns about the danger the system posed to drivers on corners on the challenging Ad Diriyah circuit this weekend.