'A lot of pressure' on rising MMA star Stephen Loman for first Manila defense

Brave Combat Federation will hold its first fight card in Manila on March 15 as the two-and-a-half-year-old promotion partners with ESPN5 to bring the action to the Philippine shores.

After holding events in Bahrain, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland, Colombia, Morocco, and Mexico to name a few, Brave CF President Mohammed Shahid pushed for a fight card in Manila for the Bahrain-based mixed martial arts organization for one main reason. He wanted Filipino fight fans to get their glimpse of bantamweight champion Stephen Loman.

"When I first came here, a lot of people asked me why they have not heard of Stephen Loman before," Shahid said during the contract signing ceremony and press conference, Monday afternoon.

"I told them it's because he was representing the Philippines around the world. He fights challengers in their home countries and beats them there and that's why Filipino fans have not yet gotten a chance to meet him."

Loman has a record of 12 wins against two defeats in his young MMA career. He won the bantamweight title back in November of 2017 at Brave CF 9: The Kingdom of Champions held in Bahrain where he defeated Gary Mangat.

The Team Lakay representative has already defended his title twice, beating Frans Mlambo last June and Felipe Efrain last November.

"There's a lot of pressure on me right now because it will be my first time to defend my title here in the Philippines but at the same time I'm also excited because we have very passionate MMA fans in here and I want to feel what it's like to perform in front of them," said Loman.

For his third title defense, Loman will take on what many say will be the biggest challenge of his career in Elias Boudegzdame of France. The challenger is a submission specialist as 12 of his 15 wins have come via tap-out. His other two wins were knockouts so he has never won via decision.

Boudegzdame is a former Brave featherweight champion to he'll be moving down in weight to challenge Loman.

"He's a great fighter and an expert in submission. He can tap you out from the top or from the bottom because he's really flexible but I've been working on my ground game in our training camp in the mountains and I've also trained for three days with John Baylon while we're here in Manila to learn more new things," said Loman who admitted that he would do his best to keep the fight on their feet to not play into the strengths of his opponent.

"We have a great partnership with ESPN5 and with their support, we will be able to showcase the talent of Filipino fighters and contribute to the growth of the sport of mixed martial arts," added Shahid. "We can't do it alone and ESPN5's expertise is really their story-telling and I'm excited for the Filipino fans to get to know more about these brave warriors."

Brave 22: Storm of Warriors will be aired on ESPN5 on March 16.

"With ESPN5 being the country's number one sports network, it doesn't mean we'll only cover the PBA, Gilas, PSL, and other established properties. It also means discovering new hidden gems in Philippines sports such as Margielyn Didal, Hidilyn Diaz, and Jerwin Ancajas. They made a big splash on the world stage on the ESPN5 screen because that's where we first saw them and we're proud of bringing the exploits of Filipino athletes when they perform and compete abroad to the homes of Filipinos," said TV5 President Vincent "Chot" Reyes.

"This partnership with Brave is the same. Very few Filipinos have heard of Stephen Loman's name and on March 15 we'll have the chance to see him live and as usual ESPN5 will be there to bring you the action. It's in our DNA to also focus on up-and-coming sports especially those where Filipino athletes are excelling. We're proud to have a role in developing sports for Filipino athletes as well as our Filipino audience.

Every time we have athletes representing our flag, it's a source of great pride for me personally and for ESPN5 as well."