Manama skyline Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Boxing and MMA look set to become the next big thing in the Middle East with Bahrain joining hands with its Gulf neighbours to turn the region into a global sporting powerhouse.

With the country already well established as a motor sports hub, having hosted Formula One racing since April 2004, it also boasts an expansive portfolio of events including equestrian sports, football, athletics, basketball, rugby, cricket and MMA.

Together with the front-runners in the UAE and the recently inspired Saudi Arabia, Bahrain hopes to forge a profitable unification that will help establish the region as a sporting mainstay.

The driving force behind Bahrain’s sporting vision is Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa who created KHK MMA, a martial arts organisation in 2015 under which the BRAVE combat federation, which was launched the following year, operates.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 31, 2019, drivers steer their cars during the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit in the desert south of the Bahraini capital Manama. Bahrain's Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled for March 20-22 will be held without spectators, the organisers said on March 8, in the latest sporting event to be hit by measures to contain the new coronavirus. / AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC
The Bahrain Grand Prix first took place in 2004.

It is recognised as the largest MMA set up in the Middle East involving fighters from more than 40 nations. BRAVE has also organised events in countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico and Kazakhstan.

Bahrain has recently been ranked the No. 1 nation in the amateur MMA with the sport a fast-growing attraction in the region.

In a bid to take the sport to a higher level, Sheikh Khalid recently appointed Dubai-based boxing broker Daniel Kinahan as a special adviser to KHK.

Kinahan, who has business links with some of the world’s biggest boxing promoters including Top Rank boss Bob Arum, Queensbury Promotions CEO Frank Warren and Matchroom Sports’ Eddie Hearn, has been tasked with developing combat sports in the country in addition to overseeing various sporting projects in Bahrain.

Most recently Kinahan was assigned to find a venue in the Middle East for the proposed heavyweight unification fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.

Sheikh Khalid, who is also the president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee said in a statement: “With an infrastructure that can evolve, the sports provide opportunity, regardless of race, religion or even marketability; and simply based on talent and becoming a global project for uniting the world.

“It is about hope and belief that the impossible does not exist. This will be our vision for KHK sports to achieve and with a great team we can.”

Welcoming the high-profile appointment, Kinahan said in a statement: “It is an honour for me to work with His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Mr Mohammad Shahid and the entire team at KHK Sports

“KHK Sports has made an impressive mark on the world of combat sports and has fantastic ambitions to grow into a global powerhouse.

“I look forward to working with the team to realise these dreams and further build Bahrain combat sports into a globally recognised presence.

“We will create opportunities for Bahraini fighters on the international stage whilst attracting the biggest names in the sport to the Kingdom.

“His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa has been visionary in his approach to the sport and has built KHK Sports out of passion which is paramount to continued growth and inspiration of the people of Bahrain.”

Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad al Khalifa, right
Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad al Khalifa, right Image Credit: BRAVE Combat Federation

Kinahan, 41, co-founded MTK Global (formerly MGM Marbella) in 2012. It is one of the world’s largest boxing stables that manages the career of world champions such as Anthony Joshua, Bille Joe Saunders and Amir Khan.

Mohammad Shahid, chief executive officer and president of BRAVE Combat Federation added: “Daniel has the same vision for sports as us; changing lives, equal opportunities, making dreams come true and uniting the world through sports.”

Speaking to the Irish Sun, legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum said that he plans to work with Kinahan on a continuous basis to host events in the Middle East.

Arum said: “Dan can help point us in the right direction because he’s over there.”