Mohammed Shahid is the president of BRAVE CF and he is looking to change the MMA landscape worldwide. Back in his younger days, he was a professional fighter himself who made history by becoming the first ever professional mixed martial artist to compete out of Bahrain. Now his focus is solely on contributing to the sport outside of the cage after he founded BRAVE CF in 2016 alongside His Highness Shaikh Khaled bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The company was born in the Middle East and has put on shows in fifteen different countries around the world - an incredible feat considering they have only been in existence for around three years.
They are continuing to expand and will hold a show in their sixteenth territory on Thursday night as BRAVE 24: London takes place from the Copperbox Arena in the Olympic Park. The event has made headlines due to it being an exclusive, invite-only show where an audience of politicians, influencers and celebrities will network in the hope of elevating the status of MMA. Chris Eubank Sr, Paul Daley, Dan Hardy, English boyband Blue and the owner of the fourth largest YouTube channel in the world, Whindersson Nunes are just a number of the worldwide names expected to attend the ‘once in a lifetime experience’.
This event is just one of a number of steps BRAVE CF are hoping to take in order to gain new levels of credibility for the sport. Shahid emphasises that to understand the true purpose of the show, the company’s vision has to be understood first.
“BRAVE CF is not just a promotion - it is a vision,” stated Shadid. “Today, it is in the shape of an event/promotion that is easy for the MMA community to relate to so we can speak loudly and be heard. The vision is to change the sport of MMA and take it to the next level which is a real change. We want to move from the event business we are in today into the sports business.”
“The invite-only show targets one of the most important sport markets which is Europe,” continued Shahid. “This region has the biggest sports industry makers that have helped build football, cricket, tennis and F1 among others. The world approves of sports that have been accepted by Europe as long as they have class and make sense. Today, MMA is lacking that so the invite-only event will empower the sport in all of Europe so it can be clearly seen what it could contribute to the landscape. Most importantly, MMA serves the sports agenda by bringing the world and people together. The BRAVE CF event in London on July 25th will start a golden era for MMA because the government and sponsors will remember the sport as a powerful, classy event where billion-dollar net-worth businessmen were brought under one roof. The whole perspective people have of MMA will change.”
Around 300 elite personalities from around the world are expected to be in attendance on Thursday night and many of those have the same mentality that combat sports can make a positive contribution to society all over the globe. Shahid believes that MMA is currently a small circle of promotions in the event business fighting among one another to decide who has the better shows. He would much rather it progress to the point where these entities can come together to make a sports industry that will consequently bring many billion dollar properties under MMA. If that was the case, Shahid thinks the value of the sport increases for all its stakeholders.
BRAVE 24: London consists of seven fights and is expected to be headlined by a contest for the featherweight belt where defending title holder, Bubba Jenkins (13-4), looks to stave off the challenge of UFC veteran, Lucas Martins (20-4). The co-main event sees SBG Ireland product, Cian Cowley (2-2), take on the dangerous striker, Maciej Gierszewski (4-4), while Aidan James (4-0) and Cameron Else (6-4) face off on a card which displays talent from ten different countries. Shahid believes that the high level of talent on show is down to the company’s detailed scouting in areas of the world where other MMA promotions don’t tend to look.
“We sign fighters regardless of small-minded thoughts about what region the athlete comes from and how economically viable exploring that market would be,” discussed Shahid. “Also, we don’t think about whether or not the fighter himself is marketable - how dare different promotions do that! This sport was built on the ethos of finding the best martial art and the best fighter in the world which is what we want to display. Keep an eye out for Gamzat Magomedov who I think will be the future of MMA. People like to call him the next Khabib but I think he has more qualities now than Khabib had at this early stage of his career. Aidan James is the next big thing from the UK/Wales and Rami Hamed is another fighter to watch for out of Lebanon where we do extensive scouting. To add to this, the main event between Bubba Jenkins and Lucas Martins will be a display of two complete mixed martial artists and the winner will be one of the best featherweights in the world.”
Shahid believes that no president or CEO of a company should be able to decide who fights who in the long term, as well as not being able to dictate who fights for world titles. He thinks that MMA will have the most success when there are four or five entities working to regulate the sport based entirely on performances inside the cage. One of the many factors he hopes will help contribute to this long term goal is the development of the amateur side of the sport.
BRAVE CF have close ties to IMMAF alongside other MMA associations around the world including Brazil, India and Africa. In fact, rather than happening in Vegas during International Fight Week under the watch of the UFC, the IMMAF World Championships now take place in Bahrain during BRAVE International Combat Week with the intention of making it the biggest, global World Championships around. BRAVE International Combat Week takes place every November and includes the biggest BRAVE event of the year where Shahid is already eying up a huge bout that would bring global headlines.
“Artem Lobov v Amir Khan in a boxing match is something that we would be interested in,” said Shadid. “John Kavanagh wanted that bout in BRAVE CF so we are prepared to talk about it. If we can work with both sides, this could happen although there are other options for Lobov out there. I’d like to see him take on any boxer at the top level but no talks have happened yet. Lobov will be in attendance on July 25th so discussions may begin then.”
Some have criticised BRAVE CF and their founder, His Highness Shaikh Khaled bin Hamad Al Khalifa, for using the company as a platform for foreign policy and diplomatic relations. Shahid responded by explaining how the public only see a tiny amount of what BRAVE CF is doing for the MMA community which far overshadows any criticism they may receive due to tenuous links. He also took the chance to give his opinions on MMA media overall and how they often just believe what is told to them.
“In three years, we have helped more athletes compete in the World Championships than anyone else,” explained Shahid. “Sport and MMA has the power to bring the world together and to improve relations between different countries so if that makes someone sad then I am shocked. That is one of the main things that sport is all about! However, I respect the writer who worked on that story and know that he is a genuine person.”
“Many people think that Asia’s largest promotion is the one with the highest social media numbers,” Shahid continued. “That promotion only has four countries as its market share. MMA journalists believe it because there is no journalism. People don’t realise that the Middle East, South Asia and many areas in South East Asia are all part of Asia too. We are one of only two promotions who went to five continents in 2018 yet you don’t hear that spoken of. No other promotion dared to enter markets where top athletes in many sports come from like Africa except BRAVE CF. This is a big reason why the MMA industry needs to change and have more cash-flow so it can have more quality journalists.”
There is no denying that the future plans BRAVE CF have are ambitious and bold. They believe that currently too much focus is on individual promotions rather than the sport as a whole and MMA can only gain mainstream recognition worldwide when this is achieved. A lot of intrigue is surrounding BRAVE 24: London as no one quite knows what to expect from the event. However, if many of the invite-only guests are captivated by the sport and leave wanting more, the show could be viewed as a milestone for MMA in Europe with a knock on impact all over the globe.
Fans in the UK/Ireland can watch BRAVE 24: London on Thursday evening at 7pm BST on bravecftv.com while fans in the US can purchase the show on FITE TV airing at at 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific. Bloody Elbow will be in attendance at the Copperbox Arena so stay tuned for coverage all week long.