‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. (Brave)
Updated 15 October 2018

‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

  • 23-year-old set to make history as he battles it out with Lucas Martins for the Brave lightweight belt.
  • Fight to take place in Bahrain on Nov.16.

LONDON: History will be made in Bahrain next month when Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. The 23-year-old has been announced as the challenger to face interim lightweight champion Lucas Martins of Brazil in Brave 18’s main event on Nov. 16.
Al-Selwady has won nine of his 10 professional fights and remains undefeated since joining Brave Combat Federation in 2016. While his shot at the title was expected, the identity of his opponent was not. Ottman Azaitar was Brave’s last lightweight champion, but the Moroccan was stripped of the belt after refusing to face Al-Selwady. Martins then claimed the interim belt with victory at Brave 14 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, last April. 
“It is an honor and privilege to compete for the championship in Bahrain,” said Al-Selwady, who made his professional fight debut aged just 17 in Jordan. “I am humbled by the opportunity to represent Palestine as an athlete in the main event of the largest combat sports event ever hosted in Asia. I will (put on) the best fight in my career and will make the world that stood alongside me during all these years of struggle proud.”
While Brave 18 will almost certainly not outsell the 21,000 that filled the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC 144 in February 2012, the chance to witness a Palestinian crowned champion in Manama will undoubtedly help sell tickets for the fight night at Khalifa Sports City Stadium. 
“The guy is the future of lightweight,” Brave CEO Mohammed Shahid said only last month. “I’ve never seen anybody that dedicated in his training; that talented and hard working. He is a complete athlete. One of the guys I tend to compare him to is Georges St-Pierre (because) every time I see him, it reminds me of a guy who is a perfectionist.”
Al-Selwady, known as the “Pride of Palestine,” fights out of Amman but is currently training in Texas ahead of next month’s bout. He entered the ring for his last fight against Britain’s Charlie Leary in March draped in a Palestine-Jordan hybrid flag and while the fight was taken to the judges’ scorecards for only the second time in his career, he won by unanimous decision.
“Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady is featured not because he is a Palestinian icon, but for being the athlete with highest number of wins in the division,” Shahid added. “This is indeed a matter of pride for Palestine. And to recognize, support and to nurture such an athlete is indeed an achievement for Brave Combat Federation.”
Brave was founded in Bahrain by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa — the son of King Hamad — and is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. Over a little more than two years, it has held 16 events across 11 countries with four more events scheduled before the end of the year, including debuts in Pakistan and South Africa and a year-ending fight night in Saudi Arabia in December.
MMA’s reputation has come in for widespread criticism recently following the ugly scenes that took place at UFC 453 following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s championship victory against Conor McGregor in Las Vegas last weekend. Khabib submitted McGregor in the fourth round before leaping over the cage and attacking members of the Irish fighter’s corner. Simultaneously, McGregor threw a punch at one of the Russian’s staff inside the octagon.
Shahid said it is important athletes remember they are held up as role models by some fans and should act accordingly, adding that Brave tries to steer clear of trash-talking, and focuses on the positive impact of sport.
“Sport can make a difference in society,” he told Arab News. “Athletes have a strong influence over their fans and society at large. Our athletes have honored martial arts as a sport that showcases discipline, respect and commitment. We have successfully featured our open workout programs to motivate and support the upcoming generation. Our athletes have wholeheartedly supported such initiatives, setting aside their differences and treating their rivalry in a healthy way.”

Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 18 June 2019

Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.