Breaking Barriers: Brave CF CEO Mohammed Shahid talks organisation’s rise and expectations
Since Brave Combat Federation was launched back in July of 2016, the promotion has held shows in Bahrain, Brazil, UAE, India and Kazakhstan. Brave CF CEO Mohammed Shahid along with founder Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa have been putting their vision forward of creating a truly global promotion.
The promotion crowned their first ever champion in French/Algerian Elias Boudegzdame in a featherweight championship main event that took place in Abu Dhabi. Brave also launched their first ever “Brave Films” series highlighting the life and journey of champion Elias Boudegzdame.
Now they turn their attention to a new market, Mexico, a nation known for their warrior spirit and passion for combat sports. The card will take place in Tijuana on July 29th and will be headlined by Alejandro Martinez and Fabian Quintanar.
Following Mexico, Brave will return to Curitiba, Brazil on August 12th with a championship double header crowning two new champions for Brave CF. Klidson Faria will take on undefeated prospect Timo Heucht for the Light Heavyweight title and Mohammad Fakhreddine will take on Carl Booth for the Welterweight title.
I spoke to Brave CF president Mohammed Shahid on the upcoming shows, Bahrain hosting the IMMAFs and the big show in November, launching women’s MMA and much more. Check out the interview below.
Sports Rants: Brave went to Brazil for the first time back in March and you guys are going back in August. Describe to me your whole experience in Brazil, the venue and everything else.
Mohammed Shahid: Even before the second event I’m already thinking of going there again before the year ends. The reason for that is from the beginning we’ve wanted to change the model for MMA and it takes time of course but the few little things we can do is go to these countries that have fight history and that have history of making good fights and fighters.
It’s heartbreaking to see what happened to some of these top Brazilian fighters. We were working on Brave Films and I was sitting with the production team and I have an agenda which the western world haven’t understood until now or maybe they do but they haven’t seen it as often as we do. We’ve only seen the Rocky story until now, Cinderella story of the athlete that had the tough life and takes over the sport which is great, it’s very inspiring but that’s one of the main stories we see all the time. There are athletes who have the same heart and determination as these Rocky types of stories but there’s still something untold whether it’s the culture or the society, the way the country or region looks at that particular sport itself. There are a lot of factors that are unseen in that part of the world (Middle East, India).
When I look at Brazil they tried to be marketable, they tried to be Conor McGregor, they tried their best and what these promotions do is sit back and wait for them to do their part of the job and then they piggy back over these 6, 7 marketable athletes but at the same time there are a lot of athletes who say forget that, I’m going to focus on being the best athlete in the word and when they get there what do they get in the end? They don’t get the fights they want then they say they’re going to retire so the lack of respect they’re getting is heartbreaking. For us as a promotion we want to make sure we put that responsibility on our shoulders and sometimes it’s for no return but it’s our responsibility as a promotion to take up that role if we love the sport.
Sports Rants: You’re entering new territory in Mexico, how did that come about and how excited are you to tap into such a passionate and knowledgeable market?
Mohammed Shahid: It’s exciting to see Brave go to Mexico. You see the style of their fighters, there’s a certain style they build for their fighters. Mexico is another capital of fighting where we want to go and provide them that platform as well.
Sports Rants: I’ve spoken to several journalists about how MMA is yet to be fully perceived and appreciated in the Middle East and since Brave is based in the Middle East, do you feel like you’re slowly breaking the barrier?
Mohammed Shahid: We had to take the high road to do that. When we started, we were advised by 10, 15 people to stick in the Middle East for the next 3 years and be big in the Middle East before going out and I immediately went against that.
Why I did that was to have my team in Brazil give me a call and say we definitely need Mohammad Fakhreddine, Ottman Azaitar, Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady, Eldar Eldarov and Elias to fight in Brazil. We gain so much traction from these fighters and this gave me a big sense of pride because when I spoke to many big promotions while I was at the IMMAF World Championships I was told that French Algerians aren’t marketable and second are Dagestani Russians and this part of the world; Arabs and India are very hard to market and to put in the main stream MMA media. So after Brazil asked me for these fighters and to see the traction they were getting, it was my first step of success in my head.
I was very happy to see guys like Mohammad Fakhreddine who have been putting in the effort and shows in the Middle Eastern promotions and fighting as hard but it’s only now that they started getting the traction and it’s a shame for him to put on such great wars before Brave and go unnoticed. I wish we were there at that time to show the world all his fights but at least here we are. At least this will show these nations that they’re being well represented just like Selwady is representing the Pride of Palestine in all of his fights and he’s a super fan favourite there now. That’s the way to make MMA big in the Middle East.
It’s a big deal for the Arab fans to see their fighters being called out by International fighters. In Abu Dhabi, the Arab fighters dominated all the international fighters. That was interesting to watch and a big message that was sent out from these guys. The Abu Dhabi event showed that heart is the biggest attribute of these Arab fighters like Ottman when he almost got knocked out by Leary and came back and when Elias fought ex UFC fighter Masio and also came back to win.
You see all these countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, they have a strong history with martial arts and some of the top fighters are from there so I think there’s no excuse to not go to countries like these. This is our target but it’s not going to be easy to go to these countries and of course Morocco, they’ve produced some of the top fighters and kick boxers in all of combat sports.
Sports Rants: Lucas Mineiro told me he underwent surgery and won’t be back until the end of the year. Was the original plan to have him challenge for the belt in Curitiba?
Mohammed Shahid: We definitely thought about it. It would have been a huge fight between Elias and Lucas in Brazil but it could be anywhere in the Middle East too, in Bahrain so there are options.
Sports Rants: And will Elias wait for Lucas or are you guys looking for another opponent in the meantime?
Mohammed Shahid: It depends what happens in that weight category so let’s see what happens in the fights in Brazil and Mexico. Elias will fight anyone and he wants to fight by the end of this year so let’s see what happens.
Sports Rants: Do you have any plans for women’s MMA? Do you plan on introducing some divisions to the promotion in the future?
Mohammed Shahid: In terms of WMMA we want to make sure we have a strong strategy in place for women’s MMA and we build that strong platform for them. We really hope to work out something by the end of this year and try to promote WMMA at a very high level.
Sports Rants: There’s the big weekend coming up in November in Bahrain, what are your plans for that event? And how satisfying is it to be able to come back to the Middle East and have your biggest shows?
Mohammed Shahid: We’re definitely going to see more titles presented in Brave. We have the big event coming up in Bahrain so we may introduce new titles in that event.
Bahrain is the first country to take the IMMAFs out of the United States so it shows how much we respect the sport and take it seriously. We started our own brand and we took it around all these different countries. We want to go around the world and plant the seeds then come back to Bahrain or anywhere in the Middle East.