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Breaking Barriers: Brave CF CEO Mohammed Shahid talks organisation’s rise and expectations

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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.

Kerrith Brown, IMMAF President with CEO of KHK MMA, Mohammed Shahid. Photo by Sports Keeda

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Surveillance Video Shows Conor McGregor Smash Phone

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In a new video released by TMZ Sports, UFC star is shown knocking a phone down and smashing it in front of the Fountainebleau hotel located in Miami, Florida.

In true McGregor fashion, he followed up the destruction of the phone by doing his famous “billionaire strut.”

McGregor got into an altercation with Ahmed Abdirzak who was following and filming McGregor with his cell phone while McGregor and his entourage were leaving the hotel.

McGregor reportedly extended his hand to offer a hand shake, only to pull it back and smack the phone out of Abdirzak’s hand and proceeding to stomp on it.

After a few stomps, McGregor picks up the phone and walks away. He was later arrested, that same day, and has been charged with felony robbery and misdemeanor criminal mischief, which could land him in prison for up to 6 years.

McGregor has pled not guilty on all charges and is scheduled for trial beginning in May.

Abdirzak filed a lawsuit against McGregor stemming from the incident, but dropped his suit after the two sides worked out a settlement.

Abdirzak was reportedly demanding north of $15,000.

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INTERVIEW: John Kavanagh Talks Brave CF 13 in Belfast, Frans Mlambo’s Title Fight and SBG Ireland

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Renowned head coach of SBG Ireland, John Kavanagh has helped put Irish MMA on the map. With his star student and multiple time UFC champion, Conor McGregor taking over the MMA world, the two have opened up unlimited doors for the rest of the team.

Today, Kavanagh is leading some of the younger generation to world title fights and global organisations. On June 9th, one of his promising young fighters, Frans Mlambo will get a shot at gold when he takes on Stephen Loman for the Brave Combat Federation bantamweight title.

The two met back in the promotion’s first ever show in Bahrain when Loman picked up a unanimous decision win over Mlambo. It was a learning experience for the young South African who has picked up 3 straight finishes since. Kavanagh is confident that the former IMMAF world champion, Mlambo has all the tools to become champion.

Also competing on the Brave CF 13 card from SBG Ireland, is Cian Cowley (0-1) who takes on Daniel Olejniczak (2-1-1) and Tommy Martin (6-4) who takes on Wales’ Aidan James (1-0).

I spoke to John Kavanagh on the upcoming Brave CF 13 show, Mlambo’s improvements and the team’s preparation for their upcoming bouts. Check out the interview below.

Farah Hannoun: Brave Combat Federation are making their first trip to Europe, you’ve witnessed the organization’s growth so how excited are you to see them go to Belfast?

John Kavanagh: Brave is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest MMA shows so it’s of course great to have them visit Ireland. However, I would have preferred Dublin because that’s my hometown.

Farah Hannoun: Frans Mlambo is headlining the event, with a record of 5-2, he’s practically grown up in the cage, how proud are to see him turn things around with 3 straight finishes since losing to Loman the first time?

John Kavanagh: He’s earned that title shot with exciting finishes both by submission and KO. He’s finding his way in the cage nicely now.

Photo by Brave CF

Farah Hannoun: What adjustments has Mlambo made since the first fight with Loman? What do you feel like went wrong the first-time round?

John Kavanagh: His grappling was too weak back then. He’s one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen and now his grappling is catching up. Frans is one of the top 135lb fighters in the world.

Farah Hannoun: Cian Cowley is set to make the walk for the second time in his pro career when he takes on Daniel Olejniczak, in light of the legal issues he’s had the misfortune of dealing with, how hard was it for him to put all that aside and focus on the fight?

Photo by Severe MMA

John Kavanagh: Cian is very mature and focused. It’s not a problem for him to block out what’s going on outside.

Farah Hannoun: Also competing from SBG, is Tommy Martin who’s looking to bounce back when he takes on Aidan James, how’s he been looking at the gym and what can we expect from him?

John Kavanagh: Tommy is a technician. Clean striking, one of best doubles on my team and tidy on the ground. His opponent is similar, solid technician. This fight will be very interesting for those who like nice technique.

Farah Hannoun: You’ve played a massive role in the growth of Irish MMA, SBG and Conor McGregor. The impact that you and Conor have had has resulted in a lot of opportunities and a spotlight on the guys at the gym. Does the idea that people have the perception that the SBG guys get “special treatment” or extra opportunities bother you?

John Kavanagh: No, we’ve earned it 😉

Farah Hannoun: You must be really proud, bringing up a talent such as Frans from his IMMAF world champion days to now him getting a title shot at Brave CF, what are your thoughts on Frans as an individual and a fighter?

John Kavanagh: One of few 135lbs in the world with genuine 1 punch KO power. A very good singer and cook too!

Farah Hannoun: You wrote a mega successful book, Win or Learn, which is even a quote that people have been using a lot when competing in MMA. Your best-selling book was even translated to multiple languages and sold internationally which is incredible. Did you expect the book to be so successful when writing it and do you have plans on writing another one someday?

Photo via John Kavanagh Twitter

John Kavanagh: No, I thought maybe my mother would buy a few copies and that’d be it haha. I believe almost 50,000 sold worldwide and talk of a movie adaptation. It’s crazy. Maybe one more book when I’m retired.

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After his impressive finish over Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, Vicente Luque eyeing Darren Till

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When Luan Chagas was forced out of his fight versus Niko Price at UFC Sao Paulo, The UFC called Vicente Luque and he happily accepted.

He stepped in on short notice and took out one of the toughest surging welterweights in Niko Price.

He hurt Price with a counter right before locking in one of his favourite submissions, the D’arce choke. This marked Luque’s 5th win in 6 UFC outings making him one of the brightest young stars in the division.

“I wanted to go out there and have an impressive fight,” Luque said.

“I thought that was very important especially that I was coming off a 4 fight win streak then I had a loss so I wanted to keep that momentum. I think I did that and it definitely puts me back where I was before going after those top 15 guys.”

He now turns his attention to a fellow rising star, Darren Till. Till took out Cowboy Cerrone in the first round last month in Gdansk and Luque feels he would match up well with him.

“I would really like to fight Darren Till,” Luque said. “He’s a great striker and his last fight was really impressive against Cowboy. I’m a striker as well and I would love to test my striking and see who the best striker in the division is.”

Photo by Jeffrey Basinger

And should the UFC decide to go a different direction, Luque would be content fighting anyone in the top 15. With 5 wins and 5 finishes in the division, he feels he’s earned a high ranked opponent or a big name.

“I want a top 15 opponent for sure but if they don’t give me that I’ll be looking for someone with a big name,” Luque said. “Guys like Alan Jouban who already have a name and everybody knows who they are. Those are the guys that I want to be fighting.”

Another name Luque is interested in is Colby Covington who fought on the same card as him. Covington took out former title challenger Demian Maia and proceeded to cut a heavy promo, blasting the Brazilian crowd.

Covington’s harsh and controversial comments towards Brazil didn’t sit well for Luque who sees multiple benefits of fighting him.

“I definitely think that was disrespectful not only to Brazilians but to anybody that watches MMA,” Luque said. “I don’t think that’s the posture of an athlete. I don’t take it personally but I would love to fight him no matter what whether he was disrespectful or not because he’s a top contender.”

The welterweight division is arguably the most talked about division. With rising stars such as Darren Till, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Mike Perry, Luque feels like his name should be thrown in the mix too.

“I think I’m getting up there and slowly getting my spot. I’m having good fights and I know what I’m capable of and that’s what I’m trying to show. I’m doing my thing and I feel that my fights speak for themselves.”

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