Jeddah MMA fighter eyes success as Saudi’s leading contender

22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
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22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
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22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
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22-year-old prodigy Nawef Chahlal from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter MMA. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 March 2023
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Jeddah MMA fighter eyes success as Saudi’s leading contender

Jeddah MMA fighter eyes success as Saudi’s leading contender
  • 22-year-old Nawef Chahlal has already competed in the flagship French MMA Supreme League, as well as across Europe

RIYADH: Long established as one of the world’s fastest-growing spectator sports of the 21st century, Mixed Martial Arts is starting to get a foothold in Saudi Arabia as a participatory one as well.

It might still be relatively early, but hopefuls from across the Kingdom are slowly but surely making their move into regional and, in the future, international competitions.

For one of them, Nawef Chahlal, inspiration came from a close source.

The 22-year-old prodigy from Jeddah told Arab News that his father’s passion for boxing served as the impetus for him to enter the sport.

“My father, he always supported me, since my beginnings. He used to come to my fights when I was a kid, he used to assist me, he even coached me sometimes,” said Chahlal.

After growing up in France as a big fan of Bruce Lee, considered by many as the godfather of MMA, Chahlal competed in the country’s flagship MMA Supreme League, as well as across Europe.

“One of the biggest competitions I had the opportunity to participate in was the Supreme League, and (I) also had the chance to fight in many countries in Europe, notably in Hungary, Switzerland, Croatia and Spain, but in another discipline, K1,” he said.

Chahlal’s record in K1 is 8-3-0, and with the flyweight fighter looking to sign his first MMA contract next week - a three-fight deal in AEF Championship - his first professional bout is set to take place on Oct.14.

The road ahead — as was the case with his journey so far — will be a difficult one, and Chahlal explained that there are many challenges for him to overcome in order to thrive in the sport, including finances and other rising talents.

“We weren’t poor, but let’s just say that as we grow up, we all have expenses that accumulate and it’s a bit complicated sometimes,” he said. “Beyond the money, if we stay really focused on the sport, there is also the fact of the strong competition in the field, which is a real challenge but which pushes us to surpass ourselves.”

Chahlal aspires to be the biggest name for KSA in the world of MMA.

“I visualize a very precise goal: to be the first Saudi world champion in different MMA organizations, and one day to reach the biggest world federations such as UFC, One, KSW, and to represent the flag of Saudi Arabia.

"Give me some time. I will make you proud and make our country go down in the history of combat sports,” he said.

Chahlal’s coach Mathis Nazil, from the French Atch Academy, believes the Saudi has what it takes to succeed.

“He is a fighter who has a lot of potential and we have to work to be at the best level. He is very dedicated in what he does,” Nazil said.

“As far as our future is concerned, we try to go slowly, step by step and we hope to be at the best level.”


‘Out of my mind’: Alcaraz collapse sends Sinner to China Open final

‘Out of my mind’: Alcaraz collapse sends Sinner to China Open final
Updated 04 October 2023
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‘Out of my mind’: Alcaraz collapse sends Sinner to China Open final

‘Out of my mind’: Alcaraz collapse sends Sinner to China Open final
  • Sinner pointed to a key turning point when, serving at 2-1 in the second set, he recovered from 0-40 to open up a healthy lead
  • The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ditched its isolationist zero-COVID policy

BEIJING: Carlos Alcaraz said he went “out of my mind” during the second-set collapse that cost him his place at the China Open on Tuesday and handed Italy’s Jannik Sinner a spot in the men’s final against Daniil Medvedev in Beijing.

The world No. 2 had chances to take a decisive lead in a breathless first set but it tipped Sinner’s way when he cracked a blistering return off the Spaniard’s second serve to take the all-important tie-break.

Alcaraz — the Wimbledon champion and tournament favorite in Novak Djokovic’s absence — then fell apart, gifting Sinner three service games in an error-laden second set to give the world No. 7 a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 victory.

Sinner and Medvedev will go toe-to-toe for the trophy on Wednesday.

“In the second set, I was out of my mind,” said Alcaraz at a post-match news conference.

“I was just complaining a lot, (and) it’s really difficult to play your best if you’re complaining or mad at yourself,” the 20-year-old added.

“(I’ve been) trying to take my chances. Today, (I didn’t),” he said.

Sinner pointed to a key turning point when, serving at 2-1 in the second set, he recovered from 0-40 to open up a healthy lead.

“There are a couple of points (that) can change the momentum completely,” the 22-year-old said.

“I managed somehow to win these kinds of moments today, which obviously helped me in the following games to stay very calm mentally and play with a lot of confidence,” he said.

Earlier, third-ranked Medvedev hailed a “perfect service match” as he eased into the men’s final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev.

The match got off to a close-fought start but Medvedev then notched a crucial break of serve and managed to see out the first set.

It was a similar story in the second set, with the Russian breaking for 5-3 and serving out the match with a pair of fierce aces.

“I don’t think there was one bad thing I can say about my serve (today),” Medvedev said at a post-match news conference.

“I think the fact that the play was faster — the faster the court is, the easier you can hit aces... (and) the easier you feel when stepping into the serve,” the 27-year-old said.

The top-ranked women’s player Aryna Sabalenka said her performances in “key moments” were crucial to surviving a major scare in the second round, after she defeated unseeded Katie Boulter 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) in Beijing.

Sabalenka saved seven break points at 5-5 and then forced the stubborn Briton, ranked 56th in the world, into a rare backhand error to clinch the opening set.

The Belarusian notched another must-win break in the second set to again draw level at 5-5 before triumphing in a tie-break by slamming down an unreturned serve.

She will battle Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in the next round for a place in the quarterfinals.

“I think what made the difference was that in the key moments I played a little bit better than her,” Sabalenka said at a post-match news conference.

“I think it was all about those last games in each set. She had the opportunity and I’m super glad that I didn’t give her those sets easily.”

US Open champion Coco Gauff also had to dig deep to get the better of Croatia’s Petra Martic in a rollercoaster tie that lasted three hours.

Martic was serving for the match against Gauff but the world number three fought back to take the game and went on to dominate the ensuing tie-break, winning 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2).

“Today was a mental victory. I was happy I was able to get through it,” said Gauff, who will face Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in her next match.

World number two Iga Swiatek shook off a rain delay to glide past France’s Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-1 and set up a date with fellow Pole Magda Linette.

Fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula bounced back from a set down to beat Russia’s Anna Blinkova 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 6-1.

The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ditched its isolationist zero-COVID policy.


Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran

Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran
Updated 03 October 2023
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Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran

Neymar gets off the mark in vital Al-Hilal victory in Tehran
  • The Brazilian scored his first goal in five games since joining the Saudi side as they eased to a 3-0 away victory over Nassaji Mazandaran of Iran
  • Meanwhile, Al-Fayha made it three wins out of three for Saudi teams on matchday two, with a 2-0 victory over Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan

RIYADH: Neymar opened his goalscoring account for Al-Hilal on Tuesday as the Saudi side defeated Nassaji Mazandaran 3-0 in their Asian Champions League clash in Tehran. The goal came in the Brazilian’s fifth game since joining the Riyadh giants and it was worth the wait.

It has been a good few days for the team, who went top of the Roshn Saudi League at the weekend and are now looking good for a place in the knockout stages of the Asian tournament.

Tuesday’s game at the Azadi Stadium was a hard-fought, and sometimes bad-tempered, affair but it ended in a vital victory for the four-time ACL champions who, like their Iranian hosts, finished the game with 10 men.

After a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Navbahor in their opening game, Al-Hilal now sit top of Group D on four points, ahead of the Uzbeks on goal difference. Nassaji are close behind on three points, followed by Mumbai City, who lost their first two games.

Neymar was not first to hit the target on Tuesday; that honor belonged to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who opened the scoring after just 10 minutes. Salman Al-Faraj delivered the ball to the right wing, where a galloping Mohammed Al-Breik sent a looping cross toward Mitrovic, who got between two defenders on the edge of the six yard area to head home.

The main talking point of the first half came seven minutes before the break when both teams were reduced to 10 men. After Michael fouled fellow number 96 Mohammadreza Abbasi, the two sets of players confronted each other and, when the dust had settled on the general melee, Salman Al-Faraj and Amir Houshmand were singled out for red cards.

Nassaji goalkeeper Mohammed Rashid Mazaheri escorted Al-Faraj off the pitch to help protect the veteran midfielder from objects being hurled at him from the stand. Neymar, who started the game still looking for that elusive first goal since signing for Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain in August, was also the target of cans and bottles thrown by home fans.

His revenge for this was sweet, however, and came two minutes before the hour mark. Nasser Al-Dawsari slipped the ball to him on the edge of the area and the former Barcelona star unleashed an unstoppable low, left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. It was a perfect, world-class finish from the forward, who had missed a penalty against Al-Shabab last Friday.

Neymar almost grabbed a second four minutes later. Kalidou Koulibaly advanced powerfully into the Iranians’ half and then found Neymar on the left side of the area. The Brazilian fired a low shot that beat the goalkeeper but came back off the opposite post.

With 20 minutes remaining, Farshid Esmaeili also hit the woodwork but that was the closest that Nassaji, making their debut in the competition, would come.

It was Hilal’s night and there was still time for them to add a third. After a corner was cleared, Al-Dawsari fired toward goal from the edge of the area and the ball was turned into the net by Saleh Al-Shehri.

Meanwhile, Al-Fayha made it three wins out of three for Saudi teams on matchday two, with a 2-0 victory over Pakhtakor.

Abdelhamid Sabiri opened the scoring after 10 minutes and the Moroccan midfielder added a second with 19 minutes remaining to seal the win against the Uzbek side. It means that after an opening-game defeat to Ahal of Turkmenistan, the 2022 King’s Cup winners are back in the hunt.

Al-Nassr defeated Tajik side Istiklol 3-1 on Monday night, with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing his first Asian Champions League goal in the process.

Al-Ittihad’s game against Sepahan in Iran on Monday was called off at the last minute, after the Saudi side refused to leave the dressing room because a monument to an assassinated Iranian general had been placed beside the pitch.


Saudi Arabia grab 2nd gold medal at 19th Asian Games

Saudi Arabia grab 2nd gold medal at 19th Asian Games
Updated 03 October 2023
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Saudi Arabia grab 2nd gold medal at 19th Asian Games

Saudi Arabia grab 2nd gold medal at 19th Asian Games
  • 20-year-old athlete Issa Ghazwani wins 800-meter race
  • Kingdom’s team increase medal tally to 2 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze

HANGZHOU: Saudi Arabia’s team collected their second gold medal at the 19th Asian Games after 20-year-old athlete Issa Ghazwani won the 800-meter race on Tuesday.
Ghazwani triumphed in a time of 1 minute, 48.05 seconds in Hangzhou, China, beating Indian contender Mohammed Afsal, who came in second in 1:48.43, with Hussein Al-Farsi, of Oman, third.
Tuesday’s gold means the Kingdom’s team have now increased their medal tally to five: two golds, two silvers and a bronze.
Saudi Arabian boxer Abdulaziz Al-Otaibi left the competition after losing to his North Korean opponent in the quarterfinal of the 51 kg category.
The Green Falcons basketball team were eliminated after losing 76-57 against Jordan in the quarterfinals.
The basketball team had qualified for the knockout stages after finishing second behind the Iranian team in Group One, which also included Kazakhstan and the UAE.
Saudi weightlifter Mahmoud Al-Hamid was eliminated from the competition after finishing seventh in the 73 kg category.
Al-Hamid lifted 147 kg in the snatch and 180 kg in the clean and jerk, but his total of 327 kg was not enough to secure qualification for the next stage.


India travel 3,400km for washed out World Cup game

India travel 3,400km for washed out World Cup game
Updated 03 October 2023
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India travel 3,400km for washed out World Cup game

India travel 3,400km for washed out World Cup game
  • India’s match against Netherlands in Thiruvananthapuram falls victim to rain
  • Pakistan clash against Netherlands on Friday for their first World Cup encounter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India’s superstar cricketers endured a 3,400km (2,170 miles) cross-country journey to play a World Cup warm-up only for the match to be abandoned without a ball being bowled on Tuesday.
India were to face the Netherlands in Thiruvananthapuram, on the southern tip of India, but they were left kicking their heels due to torrential rain.
On Saturday, their scheduled game against defending champions England up in the north-eastern city of Guwahati was also washed out.
In total, the wet weather has so far forced three warm-up matches to be abandoned while three others have been rain-affected, leaving teams and players frustrated ahead of the tournament’s start on Thursday.
The Netherlands have also had two washouts, including Saturday’s match against Australia which ended in a no result when rain ended their chase in 14.2 overs.
That game was also played in Thiruvananthapuram, sparing the Dutch a fruitless trip to another venue.
However, the weather forecast for the rest of the week in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Dharamsala — venues for first three days of the tournament — is optimistic with sunshine instead of showers.
England will play New Zealand in the tournament opener at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Pakistan clash with the Netherlands in Hyderabad on Friday, while Afghanistan and Bangladesh play in Dharamsala on Saturday.
 


Pakistan end World Cup preparations on dismal note by losing to Australia

Pakistan end World Cup preparations on dismal note by losing to Australia
Updated 03 October 2023
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Pakistan end World Cup preparations on dismal note by losing to Australia

Pakistan end World Cup preparations on dismal note by losing to Australia
  • Pakistan were bowled out for 337 in response to Australia’s 351-7
  • Pakistan lost to New Zealand in their first warm-up match last week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan concluded their World Cup preparations on a disappointing note, losing their second warm-up match to former champions Australia by 14 runs in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
The green shirts, who lost their first warm-up match to New Zealand on Friday when the Kiwis beat them by five wickets, continue a dismal run to the World Cup which includes a massive loss to India and another to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup last month.
Shadab Khan, who was captaining the side instead of Babar Azam, took Pakistan’s loss to Australia well.
“Result is not important. We took a lot of positives,” he said at the post-match ceremony. “Our attitude was good, result not in our hands. I think our 11 is sorted, we just wanted to give time to the bench to show their skills.”
Australia managed to score a respectable 351-7 from 50 overs after winning the toss and electing to bat. Aussie batter Glen Maxwell top-scored with 77 runs from 71 balls, hitting six sixes during his innings while Cameron Green and Josh Inglis provided ample support at the lower order with scores of 50 and 48 respectively.
Usama Mir was once again the pick of the Pakistani bowlers, returning figures of 2-31 from five overs while Mohammad Wasim Junior, Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, and Haris Rauf each took a wicket.
Rauf, one of Pakistan’s most lethal pacers, conceded a whopping 97 runs from the nine overs he bowled while left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled only six overs and gave away 29 runs.
Pakistan’s openers once again failed to live up to the mark, with left-handed batters Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq scoring only 22 and 16 runs respectively. Abdullah Shafique scored 12 runs while Khan was dismissed for 9 before skipper Azam took the crease.
Iftikhar Ahmed and Azam built a solid partnership of 144 runs, propelling Pakistan to a respectable position when all looked lost. However, Ahmed was dismissed on 83 from 85 balls while Azam retired out on 90 from 59 balls.
Nawaz scored a much-needed 50 but it wasn’t enough to help Pakistan to victory, as he didn’t receive support from Pakistan’s lower order comprising Salman Ali Agha, Wasim Junior, and Hassan Ali.
Pakistan were bowled out for 337 runs in 47.4 overs with Marnus Labuschagne returning figures of 3-78, Mitchell Marsh 2-43, and Pat Cummins 2-34. Maxwell and Sean Abbott each picked up a wicket as well.
Pakistan begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Friday.