A Member of Bahrain's Royal Family Looks to Set a New Standard in MMA
Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa is putting his financial resources behind an MMA dream team in the Middle East.
Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa has decided to start his own MMA dream team and he's not cutting any corners. Being a member of the Bahraini royal family he has the sort of financial clout that few others in the industry can wield and the KHK team is already emerging as potentially one of the best in the world.
There are already a few fighters involved who you might have heard of. One of them is former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Another is undefeated 155 lbs contender Khabib Nurmagmadov. The managing director of the KHK MMA team might not be quite such a stellar name but in Bahraini circles Mohammed 'The Hawk' Shahid is already well known.
He's one of Bahrain's best prospects and boasts a 4-2 record. The welterweight has been entrusted with the task of making Khalifa's MMA dream a reality and he says the KHK team will set a standard that camps all over the world eventually aspire towards,
"What we bring to the world of MMA is a new system that will turn an MMA fighter's life into an athlete's life, like a football player or an NFL player, which is what they deserve. Also our financial system and out management system and our media and marketing system will change how MMA fighters live their lives and how they are being taken care of."
Getting the likes of Nurmagmadov and Edgar on board from day one has certainly helped make the world stand up and take notice of KHK MMA. The Russian is already in Bahrain to train ahead of his TUF 22 Finale bout with Tony Ferguson and Shahid says there are plenty of established fighters on the team,
'We have UFC stars like Khabib Nurmagmadov, Islam Mkhachov and Frankie Edgar along with Bahrain pro athletes like myself and Hamza Kooheji. Also former UFC and current Titan FC fighter Alex Soto along with Russian Eldar Eldarov. Plus we have up and coming talents like two time amateur world champion Jose 'Shorty' Torres from USA and Frans Malambo and James Gallagher from Ireland."
John Kavanagh is best known as being the coach who helped mastermind Conor McGregor's rise from regional contender to interim UFC champion. Both the Irish fighters joined on his recommendation and he has been acting as an adviser and consultant to KHK MMA.
There has also been at least one recent meeting between Al Khalifa and the UFC top brass. In 2010 the organization made its first foray into Middle Eastern territory with a card in Abu Dhabi that featured a glittering array of champions past and present including Anderson Silva, BJ Penn and Matt Hughes.
In 2014 the UFC returned to Abu Dhabi with heavyweights Roy Nelson and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira headlining the card. Bahrain has hosted some small-scale MMA events and Shahid believes it is only a matter of time before the world's biggest promotion puts on a card in his homeland,
"I think a UFC event in Bahrain is something that is destined to happen."
Reports of fighters being unhappy due to either the state of their purse fees or sponsorship deals seem to emerge every week. Contractual disputes between athletes and promotions also seem to occupy more than their fair share of column inches in the MMA media and this is an issue Shahid believes KHK will help to address,
"KHK MMA will not just change the fighters lives, it will change the way managers and promotions deal with the sport and make the MMA system more organized because we can stop hearing athletes complain about finances, about promotions having issues with fighters or about managers not managing the athletes the right way."
It's a bold claim but KHK MMA is already giving its amateur fighters access to the sort of facilities and training that most seasoned professionals could only dream of,
"We have one of the best facilities that any fighter can ask for, with the best medical team in the country to help them. We also have all the requirements the fighter will need for his training and development," Shahid said.
As the likes of Nurmagedov and Edgar will not be based in Bahrain all year round the main beneficiaries of this no expenses spared approach are likely to be the local fighters. According to Hashid there are 15 amateurs who will be taking the first steps of their career under the tutelage of the KHK MMA coaches
"Our pro team has two local pro fighters, myself and Hamza Kooheji. We also have a strong amateur program which consists of 15 local fighters. Our Coaching Staff includes Renant Iusubov, former UFC and Lion's Den Fighter Pete Williams, Eldar Eldarov and BJJ black belt Dabo Hamidou."
Al Khalifa's Father is the King of Bahrain and the family's wealth is measured in the billions. Camps like Nova Uniao, Jackson Wink and Triquest MMA were built up over years to become global powerhouses but with so much ambition and money behind KHK MMA it looks set to become a serious rival to any of the top teams in the world.