It was only in 1993 when the term “mixed martial arts” (or, MMA) was first used. These days, the full-contact combat sport, which allows striking and grappling, has taken the world, and Bahrain, by storm. Particularly since Brave Combat Federation and Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa Mixed Martial Arts (KHK MMA), an MMA promotion brand, was started here. With the grand finale of their brand-new tournament taking place this month in Khalifa Sports City, and plenty of big plans in the pipeline for the sport next year, we talk to CEO Mohammed Shahid about the rise of MMA in the region.
How have you seen interest in the sport grow around the Gulf?
MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world. For the first time, a female athlete was voted as Fighter Of The Year. This proves that it is growing. The last two years were very important for the scene in Bahrain. Bahrain MMA gym produced top fighters like Hamza Kooheji and Atif Mohammed, who competed at a professional level. The formation of KHK MMA under His Highness Shaikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa meant his vision created more growth for the sport. It made MMA not only one of the biggest sports in Bahrain, but also made KHK MMA company a world-renowned brand in such a short time. It truly globalised the sport and is focusing on changing the system to benefit fighters and athletes more than ever.
What made you start Brave in Bahrain?
KHK MMA was formed to make sure the system in the industry is different from what it was before. Our main focus is to help fighters, and we proved that with solid results. We helped amateurs reach a professional level and sports enthusiasts to become fighters and compete in the highest levels of amateur competition. The biggest result was the Bahrain National Team securing three medals in their first four world competitions at amateur level. HH Shaikh Khalid then decided to take it to the world, so every fighter, regardless of which continent or race, can benefit from this great system.
How did you get into MMA?
Because I love fighting. I wanted to be the most complete fighter and also to be successful in life. With MMA, you are training your mind and body to go through six to eight hours of hard work. It is not easy. These fighters are the toughest athletes in the world. I believe if you can be a professional MMA athlete, you can overcome all problems, be it business-related, relationships or self-awareness. I love that feeling. Personally it makes me a super-confident person.
Is this the kind of sport people in general should be getting involved in?
We are talking about learning and mastering a sport where a human body has to do everything in its physical capabilities to be stronger than another human. You learn every martial art that exists, all the physical fitness and conditioning training that exists, just to have an edge over your opponent. We are very smart animals, which means we need to beat each other mentally, understand every emotion and overcome it, while turning it to our advantage. I think that’s an education no traditional martial art or school can teach.
Where can people learn MMA here?
Bahrain MMA is the official gym for KHK MMA and it was created for public use. Here you will get the opportunity to train with the KHK MMA certified coaches and engage with top professionals. After all, you need to “train with the best to be the best”, right? We have several MMA gyms in Bahrain now and it’s always great to start this journey anywhere.
What does the future hold for Brave Combat Federation?
It’s going to give more opportunities not only to sportsmen, but also every individual who is looking for international exposure. We already have offices in Brazil, Europe and India and it’s only been a year. Next year will be huge!
From BD10. Brave 2 The Dynasty takes place on December 2 at Khalifa Sports City. It is also streamed live, free of charge, on www.bravefights.com. Bahrain MMA, building 121, road 13, block 711, Tubli (35 071 616).
Quick, precise and always ready to battle, Mohammad made his promotional debut with Brave Combat Federation, winning decisively in front of a home crowd. Remember the name and get used to seeing this guy in the cage in 2017.
The history maker
The 18-year-old gave an impressive performance at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation 2016 World Championships, when he made history as the first Bahraini to bring back a bronze medal in the most prestigious amateur MMA tournament in the world.
The golden boy
Known as the Bahraini Golden Boy, Hamza Kooheji is one of the first fighters to represent Bahrain in an MMA competition and one of the most experienced MMA fighters in the Gulf. At the time of writing, he has a record of four wins and one loss.