With Brave Combat Federation proving to be a reliable source of future UFC, Bellator, and PFL standouts, a prospect couldn’t be blamed for viewing the Bahrain-based promotion as a platform for other opportunities.
Denis Maher, though, is strictly focused on the task at hand.
Unbeaten in seven pro bouts, Maher heads into the biggest fight of his career this Friday when he takes on Rinat Sagyntay (9-0) in the co-main event of Brave CF 51, the promotion’s first-ever show in Maher’s native Belarus (and in his hometown of Minsk, no less). Sagyntay presents a significant jump in competition from what the 26-year-old Maher has faced thus far, so a win will go a long way towards establishing whether Maher is a legitimate prospect.
Names like Khamzat Chimaev, Johnny Walker, Sodiq Yusuff, Khalid Taha, Ottman Azaitar, and Mariya Agapova, all competed at least once for Brave CF on their journey to a UFC contract and Maher could find himself on a similar path soon. However, he told MMA Fighting that all he wants right now is Brave CF gold.
“I actually do not plan on going to fight in an American promotion,” Maher said in a translated interview via e-mail. “I want to win a Brave CF belt, and I want to hold it as long as possible. I see a very bright future for this promotion.”
Maher’s original athletic aspirations weren’t even related to MMA at all when he was growing up. At 7, he took up soccer, and that was his focus for almost a decade before he discovered Hand-to-Hand Combat Fighting. He trained in that discipline before transitioning to MMA and making his pro debut on his 19th birthday.
Five of Maher’s first seven opponents failed to make it out of the first round and he enters his Brave CF debut coming off of back-to-back finishes.
Denis Maher submits Valijon Serdarov via first round front choke pic.twitter.com/0NWNhsNLUU— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) April 15, 2020
After his most recent win, Maher was sidelined with injuries, though he found ways to stay busy in the latter part of 2020.
“I never stopped competing,” Maher said. “I trained for the first half of last year to prepare for my debut at Brave CF that was planned for the second half of 2020, but unfortunately the fight didn’t happen. In the second half of 2020, I became the European champion for Hand-to-Hand Combat Fighting. I always stay a hundred percent ready to fight for whenever the chance comes.
In Sagyntay, Maher meets an equally hungry fighter who is out to prove that he’s capable of more than just feasting on inferior competition. Maher says his options have been limited at home, which is why making the jump to Brave CF is so important to his career.
“I have been training for a long time for both my amateur and professional careers, I always accepted any opponent that I was offered,” Maher said. “In Belarus, there are not many options, but now I get to fight people from all around the world at Brave CF. I’m excited to have the opportunity to fight a tough opponent, and it’s a great opportunity for me to participate in a world-known promotion.”
Friday’s bout will be contested at 175 pounds, 10 pounds lighter than Maher’s recent middleweight outings. The 175-pound division is known as super welterweight in Brave CF and Maher has no intentions of going any lower. Brave CF has a super welterweight champion, Jarrah Al-Silawi, and Maher is determined to add that belt to his collection in the future.
“This weight class lets me fight in the best shape and that’s how the best fights happen,” Maher said. “I’m glad to have this weight class at Brave CF, it allows me to be in the best shape possible on fight night as I feel too small for middleweight but sometimes too big for [170 pounds].”
And if the UFC, Bellator, or the PFL come calling, would Maher consider cutting that extra five pounds?
“I like where I’m at right now and plan to stay there,” Maher said when asked if he sees himself fighting in America next year. “I’m excited to begin my adventure with Brave CF and I hope to reach the top soon.”