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

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.”

Can Barcelona shine without their star man Lionel Messi?

Updated 23 October 2018

Can Barcelona shine without their star man Lionel Messi?

  • Barca's first test without their main man is against Inter Milan at home in the Champions League on Wednesday.
  • Catalans will look to Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha and Malcom, to step up in his absence.

BARCELONA: Barcelona’s lowest ebbs are invariably followed by questions about Lionel Messi but the issue of over-reliance may become clearer over the coming weeks.
The sight of Messi on the ground, grasping his right arm, during Barca’s win over Sevilla on Saturday prompted reactions inside the Non Camp normally reserved for the conceding of goals.
Hands behind heads, fingers over mouths, the concern became real shortly after the final whistle when the club confirmed Messi had fractured his radial bone.
His absence leaves Barca vulnerable when they need him most, for a run of fixtures that includes Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, the Clasico against Real Madrid on Sunday, before a return match against Inter in Italy at the start of next month.
If he takes longer than expected to recover, he could miss tricky games against Real Betis and Atletico Madrid in La Liga too.

Argentine ace Messi was in agony as soon as he hit the turf — he will be out for as many as six matches. 

Barcelona have grown used to accusations of dependence, not least when results have taken a turn for the worse.
When Ernesto Valverde left Messi on the bench for the 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao last month, the argument was given added weight by him coming on and making the assist for their equalizer.
“This is Barcelona,” Messi said afterwards. “We have a strong team and we have enough not to have to depend on one player.”
The same point was raised last season, when Messi, as a substitute, inspired a late fightback from two goals down against Sevilla and scored in the 89th minute.
He played the entirety of the Champions League collapse against Roma but then the criticism was Barca had failed to find the answer when Messi had not provided it.
There is no team in the world that would not look worse with Messi extracted.


As Real Madrid are proving in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, a striker’s goals are difficult to replace but so too is the aura.
“Emotionally we know when Messi is there he gives us more confidence because he is the best in the world,” Pique said on Saturday. “But it does not have to affect us.”
To maintain a resurgence built on wins over Tottenham and Sevilla, as well as a draw away to Valencia, Valverde will have to find the solution.

Can Ousmane Dembele raise his game in the absence of Messi? 

On Monday, Marca listed six options in a “casting for replacements” — Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha, Munir El-Haddadi, Malcom, Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto.
Alena, the 20-year-old midfielder, is an exciting talent, while Malcom, only a year older, scored 12 goals for Bordeaux last season.
But Dembele is the most obvious. Messi’s position on the right of the front three is where he is most comfortable, rather than off the left, where the 21-year-old has often been made to adapt so far.
After a debut season blighted by injuries, Dembele started the first six games of this one, scoring five goals.
But doubts remain about him in big games, where his habit for losing possession can be punished by opponents quick in transition and clinical on the counter-attack.
When Barca went three matches without a win, he was dropped. “He is not yet fully aware of what it means to play at the highest level,” said France coach Didier Deschamps last month. “He still needs to learn,” Valverde said last weekend.
It would be a surprise if Dembele was not at least given the chance at Camp Nou against Inter, who are level on points with Barca in Group B, having also beaten PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham.
Second place might have been the limit of Inter’s ambitions when the draw was made but with Messi out, they might spy an opportunity. “It is a pity,” said Mauro Icardi. “And a big blow for them.”