Wed, 06 December 2023
The Brave Combat Federation stands as one of Bahrain’s greatest sporting achievements, becoming one of the biggest forces in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). This month, we sat down with Mohammed Shahid, the President of Brave, to find out the secrets behind its huge success.
Could you talk about the history and background of Brave, as well as its major achievements and milestones?
Brave was founded by HH Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa in 2016, but the idea came much earlier from a love of MMA. In 2014, Shaikh Khalid decided to form the KHK MMA team which included some of the biggest superstars of the sport such as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev, who is today the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
We took athletes from different parts of the world, combined them together and gave them the resources and support needed to raise their professional athletic profile to the level of football, tennis, cricket and any other sport you can think of. It worked because Bahrain is ranked as the number one team in the world today.
It wasn’t enough to do this for 10 to 15 athletes, but rather we wanted to do it for 10,000 out there in the world. That was our vision and Brave was the media property we required to realise it, starting with our very first event on September 23, 2016. The rest is history, including two annual events in Bahrain and many more internationally including Europe.
Did you ever imagine that it would come this far over the years?
Absolutely. As the famous Conor McGregor says: “We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over.” We live by that mentality and it was always our goal to change the system. It wasn’t just a question of leading, it was a question of revolutionising it.
In terms of the regional growth of the sport, how do you believe that the key activities and events of Brave have contributed to its growth and development?
There are three areas, one is national, one is regional, and one is global. At the national level, we’ve never seen sporting achievements in Bahrain on this level in history, with pound-for-pound fighters and the team being number one in the world.
Regionally, Bahrain is now taking the presidency of the Asian MMA Federation. The Brave Combat Federation is the official partner of International Mixed Martial Federation and we’ve never had any Bahraini organisation that could become the official partner of an international sports governing body until now.
Globally, we must look at the skills development of the officials. We’ve seen this with F1 where the operations team and marshals have set standards and are used to train others at difference races around the world. We are strongly focused on the grassroots level and it is from this desire that this year, the Bahrain Mixed Martial Arts Federation became the official operations team that’s going to lead all the international world championships, Asian championships, European championships and more.
Would you say that Brave has been quite essential in changing the perception of the sport in the region, especially on a cultural level?
Absolutely. We’ve used MMA as an education factor for the youth of our country. Combat sports keep kids off the street and out of trouble around the world, and parents are now starting to realise it’s a legitimate avenue for their children too. Not only that, but Brave is the largest exposure platform for Bahrain as well. There’s no other product in the country that has been exported to 30 countries around the world and being broadcast in 160 countries and 848 million households.
What is your process of acquiring and recruiting fighters?
We have a team that’s crazy about MMA and watch every single fight from every organisation. You definitely need those with their hands in the dirt! We’re always on the lookout for amateur talents and with how popular MMA is these days, it’s easier to find those talents than it was previously.
Could you name any Bahraini athletes in the realm of MMA that we need to keep an eye on?
Of course there is first and foremost Hamza Kooheji. You can’t speak about MMA and Bahrain without mentioning Hamza. He is one of the best in the world today, becoming the number one bantamweight fighter, in his weight class, in all of the Middle East and top five worldwide.
There’s also Hussain Ayyad who has been there from the beginning of Brave and he’s really hitting his peak now. In his last fight, he broke his leg and that experience changed him into a better athlete. He’ll be making his return on December 15 and we cannot wait to see him back.
Of course, it’s not always about that glamour and great media personalities, as you need to have those cold-hearted fighters who only care about going and destroying the person in front of you. That’s what we have in Abdulla Yaqoob, who is one of those guys who will always surprise you. Once, he was fighting in Bahrain and we lost him for a week. Literally, nobody knew where he was including his team and the organisation. He returned just before his fight, never revealed where he was, then won his fight.
How does the federation engage with fans and audiences?
The sports industry is getting more digitalised and that is the future. We love live sports of course, but combat sports is slightly different because it is one of the best friends of broadcasters when it comes to content.
We created our own OTT platform called Brave TV, which is available on the Apple Store and Play Store. We have a very active YouTube and use our socials to push fight content and interviews to all our fans.
Tell us about the events you have coming up in December!
We have three events happening in December, including Brave 77 on December 5 featuring two title fights. On December 8 we have Brave 79 and then December 15 is going to be a fully public open event, Brave 80.
Having been a fighter and a coach, what would you say are the best qualities that being a trained fighter instils in a person?
I would say to anyone who wants to train as a fighter to take that walk into the cage once in your life. Not even to become a professional but just to experience that feeling. To be the best, you have to go through everything and the mentality of what it is to be the greatest athlete in the world. Becoming the greatest fighter is always different from becoming the greatest athlete because we don’t ‘play’ fighting. You could play football, you could play cricket, but you can’t play MMA, so it’s much more different from any other sports that exist.
It is 90 percent mental and 50 percent physical and you will never be able to balance that to 100 percent. You have to be more than that. I also strongly believe in leadership by example and that the leader should never ask something of you if he won’t go through that himself. Whether it’s a thousand push ups, a 10km run or anything else, you always have to live in the uncomfortable zone.