MMA is, now more than ever, a global phenomenon. With new markets emerging in virgin territories, the sport can, as has long been predicted, only get continue getting bigger. One of the most recent markets to start making waves comes from the Arab states. While Desert Force have been around since 2010, the birth of Bahrain-based Brave CF in late 2016 appears to be the most poignant sign yet that the sport can continue to flourish in the region.
Egyptian welterweight Ahmed ‘The Butcher’ Amir (7-1) is one fighter riding that wave of success. Now based out of Kuwait, Amir has designs on becoming one of the first Arabian fighters still based in an Arab country to make a splash on the global stage – in order to do that, he must blaze a trail, and open doors he feels are not yet fully open.
“I want to prove that I am the best in the world”, Ahmed told The MMA Vanguard recently. “My dream is to win a belt in the UFC, but why do the major organizations not take Arab fighters based in Arab countries?” He asked us in a frankly enlightening, back-and-forth discussion.
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact the sport has not yet made a big enough impression – or perhaps there are political reasons. Whatever the answer, companies like the UFC, Bellator and ONE Championship have only to look in Ahmed Amir’s direction if they want a stand out fighter with a big reputation in North Africa and the Middle East. Ahmed began his career in his home nation, Egypt, but as yet that remains one of only two fights there. He made quick work of compatriot Hassan Saad, scoring the first of his seven career finishes, under the Egyptian Free Fighting Championship banner. That was back in 2011 – and it would be a full 27 months before he would be seen in competitive mixed martial arts action again.
It’s a statistic than underlines the difficulty fighters like Amir have had in gaining international recognition. In his first three-and-a-quarter years as a pro fighter, ‘The Butcher’ would manage only two pro fights – but the news becomes much more positive in more recent years.
There are more promotions than ever before, and the levels of competition have been steadily rising. Brave CF have thus far put on 5 shows, with all of their line ups studded with truly international talent. This is no doubt a positive thing, and Ahmed has only great things to say of the promotion. But his burning desire to fight the best in the world is extremely apparent. “Brave are an amazing organisation,” Amir says, “They work very professionally, everyone works very hard, and they respect the fighters.” He continues: “The company has very good management with Professor Shahad and Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad.”
Brave’s stated goal of being the first “global promotion” based in the Middle East is, so far, a genuine reality. Having already held shows in Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, as well as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, the opportunities for fighters to perform on a sizeable platform are only getting better. Surely this will help pave the way for the likes of Ahmed, as well as stand outs like Mohammed Fakhreddine, Ahmed Faress, and Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady, all of whom look ready for an even bigger challenge. Their success will not only determine their own careers, but potentially the future of MMA fighters in the region as well.
It’s a responsibility and a prospect that Ahmed Amir is actively seeking.
So what do we know about Amir? Despite a loss in his second professional outing under the Desert Force banner, a defeat that marks the sole time Amir has gone the distance, Ahmed has proven what a capable finisher he really is. After a first round armbar submission of debutant Talal Al-Jarba at Cage Fighters Kuwait, Ahmed took on Hossein Mollamahdi of Iran at Global Fighting Championship 4. The bout, which took place at middleweight, saw Amir looking slightly undersized, and potentially to his detriment. An overhand right in the opening exchanges snapped Amir’s head back and dropped him to his knees, but only momentarily. Shooting for a double leg, Amir saw Mollamahdi sprawl well, but ‘The Butcher’ would not be denied. Clasping his hands and lifting Mollamahdi, the Iranian switched tactics applying a guillotine in mid-slam. Showing good technical awareness, Amir rode out the powerful squeeze of his opponent while advancing his position to side control, and then full mount.
It wasn’t a great showing of positional control from Mollamahdi, and he would quickly pay the price for it. Unable to scramble out despite his best efforts, the Iranian had to endure Amir’s effortless transitions from the top, before he eventually settled for an arm triangle to force the tap. It was slick stuff from the Egyptian – and stylistically different from the much more aggressive display in his next fight against 14-fight veteran Amr Wahman at Egyptian FC 21.
Much more intent on displaying his ground and pound, Amir continually swarmed the Cairo-based fighter, scoring takedowns at will and showing yet more dominance from top position. To the credit of his veteran opponent, Wahman was able to extend the contest to the third and final stanza, only to drop a submission loss late on. It was a high pressure performance and a relentless display. Unsurprisingly, nobody since then has been able to make it out of the second stanza. His next two foes wouldn’t even make it of the first.
By now 4-1, Amir was beginning to gain real recognition in the Arab states. Desert Force came calling for a second time, and lined up Moroccan Youness Mikiss a man who, at 4-3, had fought most of his career in France. If the plan was to rack up wins in the burgeoning hotbed of MMA talent, Mikiss would be stunned to lose back-to-back fights under the Desert Force banner. First, Mohammad Ghorabi of Libya scored a first round TKO, before Ahmed Amir required even less time to complete a rear naked choke submission. 2:50 is all that was required of the Egyptian, and that fight back in May of 2015 would be his last before joining Brave CF.
At Brave CF 1, Amir would face respected American grappler Richie ‘Boogeyman’ Martinez. While Martinez was 7 years Ahmed’s senior, and in possession of a much longer, leaner frame as well as a honed and clear game plan, Ahmed would cause something of a minor upset. By superbly defending himself on the ground following an early Martinez takedown, Ahmed left a tied-up Richie with no choice but to take the fight back to the feet. Here, ‘The Butcher’ would land a left-right combination that sent Martinez flopping forward, and Amir would be all over him with strikes in no time. Martinez recovered, and threatened briefly with an ankle pick, but Amir would again show solid submission defence, winding up on top and unleashing a barrage of punches and elbows to which the American had no reply.
It was an important win, and one upon which Amir would build at Brave CF 4. Argentinian Kevin Koldabsky would be next to try his luck, and despite a positive start with a straight right that dropped Amir to a knee and a takedown and triangle attempt, Amir evaded serious danger with good technical defence. With good elbows from the bottom, Koldabsky remained an active threat even when Ahmed began to assert his authority with repeated takedowns.
After an even opening frame, Amir would stalk his way into a painful cup shot, before gaining revenge via yet another takedown, this time straight into back control. Koldabsky showed his own Jiu Jitsu chops by standing, but Amir would not be denied. Ragdolling the Argentinian, Amir secured double leg hooks, cranked on the hold, and achieved a technical submission by rear naked choke.
It’s been an impressive ride so far, no doubt, and one that is far from over. Immediately after the Koldabsky victory, Ahmed called for a shot at the Brave CF Welterweight title, though he remains clear he will fight in any of the major global promotions should a call come his way. With plenty to say, and even more to prove, Ahmed Amir is ready to take the next step in his MMA career.