On September 3rd, 2016 an event titled ‘BRAVE 1: The Beginning’ was launched in Isa Town, Bahrain and would serve as the opening event for what would become a flourishing MMA promotion over the next half decade. An exact 5 years later, BRAVE Combat Federation celebrates its anniversary spearheaded by promotional president Mohammed Shahid and founder, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
While the promotion’s birth and infancy was played out in the Middle East for their first four shows, with the exception of Brazil it was quick to expand globally. By the time the turn of the decade reared around BRAVE CF had successfully held events in Asia, South America, the Middle East, Europe and is even the only international promotion to ever hold events in Africa.
Of course, along with strategic business, much of their success falls on the massive array of talented fighters and exciting fights put on over the years. Over 53 events currently, BRAVE has seen some of the best fighters in the world develop through their ranks and become champions. Home grown heroes of the promotion like Muhammad Mokaev secured 3 of his 5 total wins in BRAVE, transitioning directly into the promotion from the amateur circuit where he has been growing into stardom.
Other fighters on the roster will also be recognized as established talent from other promotions who have sought the new challenges in BRAVE CF such as Ali Bagautinov and Dustin Ortiz, two UFC veterans who recently faced off in BRAVE’s flyweight tournament. Those fans secluded to the most western promotions today may also recognize names such as Khamzat Chimiev and Ilia Topuria who built themselves up during their days among the BRAVE ranks.
BRAVE CF president, Mohammed Shahid spoke to MMA Island in an exclusive interview this morning to discuss what particularly he attributes the promotion’s growth over the last five years to and where he sees the evolution of the sport going next.
“The vision was very simple, clear to understand and that was not to create a brand or a business that can become a billion dollar business and compete with other promotions… it was nothing to do with that, it was not competing in the market, it was simply about how to bring change to Mixed Martial Arts”
A constant theme coming from BRAVE seems to be change, with such a diverse array of countries having hosted BRAVE events in the past, globalization is a large part of what makes BRAVE what it is today. And Shahid seems to agree, when asked where he would like to see the promotion travel in the oncoming half decade he had a few different ideas in mind.
“With each contenant you get some ideas of each country. In Africa I want to keep pushing on the North African region as well, we’ve done Morocco already but I still want to go to more North African countries because I see alot of top athletes in Europe coming from this part of the world. [Plus] when you look at the Middle East for example we really want to push ourselves into the markets that are really developing MMA, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia – of course we haven’t done Dubai which is shocking to say. In the Middle East, how do you not do an event in Dubai? You have to do an event in Dubai, so that’s a personal goal”
However it seems that the more immediate plan in the upcoming year may be a branch into the North American market. “The mission for the USA and Canada is definitely going to be in 2022” says Shahid before explaining that Japan and Korea are also on their potential list for the future. While BRAVE has held events in Indonesia and the Philippines, Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea have long been heralded in the world of Mixed Martial arts as the birthplace of many styles seen in the sport today. For BRAVE to eventually break into those countries and successfully put on events would be huge for the company.
BRAVE CF is set to be held in Poland tomorrow night headlined by a Lightweight title clash between Amin Ayoub and Ahmed Amir. Following this it has been recently announced that cards in both Germany and France are scheduled for the upcoming months.
Next to globalization, Shahid attributes success to BRAVE’s focus on developing an amateur circuit and growing local MMA scenes throughout lesser known countries in the MMA world, which can potentially lead talent into the big shows.
“The development of the amateur circuit, that’s the key point. If you look at a team today, let’s say any teams in the world, the best mixed martial arts teams in the world, you go to that gym to train and you’ll see them try to push fighters quickly to the pro-level because at the end of the day that’s the benefit that the gym gets, when an athlete who’s at the top level can turn pro and you get a percentage from the fights. Managers on the same hand are looking for that and fighters also want to go pro because they want to make a living. So you don’t really see a grass-roots development program and if anybody is trying to do that nobody is really paying attention… but we have been developing that.”
“So the development of the amateur level was very important … but mostly it’s about going to different countries and empowering the whole system of MMA in those countries so every country we go to you see us doing a lot of co-promotion, and the reason why we do co-promotion in each country is you see the national federation, you see the fighters, you see the promoters who are working really hard to keep their fighters active in those countries and when we go, we bring them all together and we give them a global exposure, give them opportunities to get sponsorships, get the government to come in like they hadn’t before.”
Ultimately what it comes down to is by helping develop both the amateur and more localized martial arts scenes, not only will big promotions like BRAVE benefit from the influx of combat talent but overall the sport should. As the fastest growing sport today, discussions surrounding what exactly Mixed Martial arts has become has been a hot topic debated often. BRAVE CF recently announced the creation of the BRAVE national league, a format more akin to FIFA than anything seen in MMA to date. According to Shahid the eventual goal is to keep MMA on a global stage under one umbrella, governed by a consistent set of regulations and policies creating a more organized infrastructure. Theoretically a system more comparable to traditional global sports should return the means to success in MMA to the level of skill showcased rather than the entertainment value posed by an event. The president spoke extensively on how by uniting MMA globally, introducing a team-league system which draws on national and team pride may be a way to counter the spectacle driven model which seems to have captured MMA today.
“We don’t see anyone else taking that responsibility for Mixed Martial Arts, we all enjoy Mixed Martial Arts, but if we don’t create that change we’re going to end up like boxing, going to die in the future. Today if a Youtuber can come and box with a fighter and make more money than the guy who was Olympic champion, that’s going to come to MMA. Don’t think that’s only going to happen in Boxing, it’s gonna come into MMA at some point because it’s the event business. You could have two of the best fighters fighting each other or you could have Cher and Beyonce fighting each other, you’re still in the event business. You’re still going to sell tickets, you’re gonna sell that fan base and you’re gonna sell PPVs, it’s not about fights anymore, it’s about events. You are in the event business. Don’t complain about it, if you want to complain about it, change the model, if fighters are complaining that they don’t get paid like NFL athletes, well you’re not in the NFL, it’s simple as that, the model is an event model. If you have a model in your sport like the NFL then you can ask for it and complain about it but [we] don’t have that structure. We want to create that structure, and why we say FIFA, is that everyone who has tried to make a league model is gonna die because there’s no regulation, no policies and that can always be disastrous. You need to have everything supervised and BRAVE cannot do it alone, we just started the league model because we are building infrastructure.”
Overall in an age governed by self marketed trash talkers and self promoting MMA stars, it’s refreshing to think of an MMA promotion dedicated to serving the fighters out there focused on the martial arts. Summed up well in the beginning of the interview President Mohammed Shahid explains that the founder of BRAVE, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s initial goal was to “change Mixed Martial Arts, to make sure that Mixed Martial Arts is in the sports business and not just the event business”.
For the full uncut exclusive interview visit MMA Island on Youtube.