Kurdistan-born BRAVE CF MMA fighter Mario Saeed wants to inspire the next generation

Mario Saeed

A gentleman in and out of the cage, and one of the best submission artists in mixed martial arts today plies his trade at BRAVE CF — his name, Mario “Rudeboy” Saeed.

Fighting out of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the Kurdistan native Saeed currently holds a 13-5 record and is one of the most exciting fighters in the world with nine of his wins coming by way of a finish.

All but one of those finishes have come via submission which is not a surprise given that he is a BJJ Gracie-Barra black belt. At the start of his career, he was nicknamed “The Arm Collector” after using the armbar technique on multiple occasions to great effect.

What makes Saeed's grappling prowess even more impressive, however, is the fact that he began his career as a boxer before transitioning to kickboxing.

Speaking exclusively to GIVEMESPORT, he said: “I’m the first-ever Kurdish black belt, it took me 13 years to get it."

“I’ve been fighting for a long time in professional Muay Thai Kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, now we’re taking the MMA game seriously.”

Just about every fighter that steps into the cage is a warrior who has had to endure tough times and Saeed is no exception, with an extremely tough childhood.

The 30-year-old was born in Slemani, a city in the east of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and lived there until he was 10 years old. He notably described it as a warzone where a bomb exploding would be a regular occurrence for him to experience.

"You heard a bomb going off every two minutes,” Saeed said. “My dad was working for the government. I was always hiding from house to house with my mum because people were after my dad’’.

“They were trying to get to my dad but they couldn't get him so they would try and get me and my mum. I had to watch my mum die. She was trying to protect me by hiding me and I saw her get killed in front of me."

After witnessing his mother’s murder first-hand, a man he had never met before pulled him out of his hiding place. He feared for his life in that moment, until the man put him into a back of car, kissed him on the forehead and told him “I promise you nobody will hurt you."

Saeed later immigrated to the United Kingdom with his father in the hope of starting a new and better life but to this day safety still isn’t guaranteed. He has stated that people are still after his father and are after him too in all likelihood.

However, if it wasn’t for the United Kingdom welcoming him and his father, he believes he would have died a long time ago.

“That’s why when I fight, I represent both countries [UK and Kurdistan]. I’m proud to represent the UK flag because they gave me a new life.”

Saeed’s tough upbringing led him to pursue a career in combat sports and later eventually transition into mixed martial arts.

"You know when people say the cliché, 'fighting saved my life,' fighting did save my life. Otherwise, I'd have been in jail killing someone or killing myself. Because I feel without fighting I'm nothing. But now, I've got kids. I try and put all my energy and motivation into my kids."

Saeed became a pro fighter in 2011 and has since competed for various European promotions such as Cage Warriors and BAMMA. He went on to become the super welterweight champion at Rage UK MMA last year when he outpointed Jake Blyth.

Mario Saeed 4

Having also trained with some of the best fighters in the world including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jorge Masvidal and Alexander Gustafsson, it was only a matter of time until he joined a major international promotion and he did just that, signing a multi-fight deal with Brave CF in June last year.

Riding a four-fight winning streak at the time, Saeed made his debut against the undefeated Benoit Saint-Denis in a super lightweight bout at Brave CF 38 in August. Despite a promising first round, Saeed would eventually succumb to a second-round TKO loss — his first defeat in over three years.

Saeed notably suffered a broken nose as a result but offered no excuses as he took his loss like a champion and vowed to come back stronger.

“I will be back and I will be a champion. Last night wasn’t my night. Big congratulations to my opponent on his win.”

It wasn’t the ideal start to life at BRAVE CF, but if anyone can bounce back from setbacks, it’s certainly Saeed.

Given where he’s come from, his career has already been a major success and in particular, he hopes the youth of Kurdistan can use his example to follow their dreams.

"This message is for the Kurdish who are 16 or 17 who have nothing going for them. Keep fighting, keep training, you have a chance, there is hope. One day, your dream will come true. If I can do it, you can do it."

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