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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: A Saudi fighter battled through a broken rib to triumph at a mixed martial arts event held in Jeddah on Friday. Athletes from more than a dozen countries took part in Brave Combat Federation 33 at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, with Mustafa Rashed Neda and Abdullah Al-Qahtani triumphing on home turf.
But featherweight Al-Qahtani said the journey had been difficult. “I had broken a rib, but it all worked out,” he told Arab News.
“I didn’t want to cancel the match because I’m participating in the Kingdom in front of my family and audience. I couldn’t cancel at the last minute and tell them about my injury. I pulled through, but I hope I can perform better next time. There has been an increase in awareness about this sport in the Kingdom. People used to call any combat sport boxing. Now they can differentiate between different combat sports such as mixed martial arts, boxing, and others.”
Catchweight Neda said he was happy to win for a second time, adding it was significant that Saudi athletes could win against international champions.
“The head of the General Sports Authority Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki opened these doors for us,” he told Arab News.
“There were many Saudi athletes in the past, but there were no federations to show ourselves. Now we have the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts Federation headed by Abdul Aziz Al-Jelaidan. It’s an honor for us to participate under the Saudi federation.”
Russia’s 2019 super lightweight champion Eldar Eldarov said organization of the event exceeded his expectations.
There were many Saudi athletes in the past, but there were no federations to show ourselves. Now we have the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts Federation headed by Abdul Aziz Al-Jelaidan. It’s an honor for us to participate under the Saudi federation.
Mustafa Rashed Neda
“There’s a big difference between this year and last year,” he told Arab News.
“We came to Jeddah again and it’s much better, better organization and better fighters. It’s a great show. People know more about it, and more people showed up this year. This means they are more interested in it. I know a number of Saudi MMA fighters and now there is a Saudi Arabian national team who attended world championships to represent Saudi Arabia. The sport is growing now.”
Al-Qahtani beat Pakistan’s Zia Mashwani, while Neda scored victory over Frenchman Alexis Fontes.
Last year was Saudi Arabia’s first time hosting an MMA event, and Bahrain-backed Brave has a reputation for giving opportunities to young fighters from diverse locations such as Brazil, Russia, Sweden and Iraq. One of those attending the 2019 event, Nouf Al-Gharawi, said there had been a lot of development in the Kingdom’s sport sector in terms of organizing and hosting events that showcased Saudi athletes and their talent.
“Sports for both genders in the Kingdom have spread, and one of them is martial arts,” she told Arab News. “It has become very popular among men and women. I personally am practising martial arts and I’m proud to be a girl doing this.”
Another Saudi national who attended the event said the sport sector had seen significant changes and progress, especially in the last three years.
“Men, women, young people and the elderly have many different sports to practice,” Redwan Srouji told Arab News.
Eldarov was impressed with the performance of the two Saudi fighters.
“I saw them last year. With support (from the Kingdom) they have great potential to win. They are tough guys ... Fighters like them, when they win, give a good example for the younger generation to train, to become stronger and to become fighting champions.”
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