Alexander Emelianenko

BRAVE Combat Federation, one of the Middle East’s most prominent MMA promotions, announced on Monday a 15-man shortlist of potential competitors for the organization’s four-man November 15 openweight tournament, which offers a $100,000 prize and 6.2kg (13.67lbs) championship belt made of solid gold.

According to a social media post, BRAVE claims that over “hundreds of fighters” had completed the application process to be considered for entry to the tournament. Of those hundreds, 15 fighters reached the shortlist stage, which is the penultimate step to earning one of the four contest slots (two fighters will also compete in an alternate bout).

Among the names on the shortlist are several notable combat sports athletes, including GLORY kickboxer Guto Inocente (7-4 MMA), controversial UFC veteran Gilbert Yvel (40-16-1, 1 NC), former UFC athletes Rashad Coulter (9-4), Alex Garcia (15-7) and Cole Miller (21-11, 1 NC), and world-class Iranian wrestler Amir Aliakbari (10-1).

In addition to the aforementioned names, two other polarizing MMA fighters appear on the list: Russian heavyweight Aleksander Emelianenko (28-7-1) and former PFL heavyweight tournament finalist Josh Copeland (18-6-1).

Both Emelianenko and Copeland have been found guilty in sexual or domestic abuse cases, respectively.

Emelianenko, 38, was convicted on charges of sexual assault, “kidnapping” by withholding a passport, and forced use of narcotics stemming from an assault on his housekeeper, 27-year-old Polina Stepanova. The brother of legendary MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in May of 2015, but was released on parole three years early, in October of 2016.

Copeland, 36, pled guilty to felony second-degree assault with serious bodily injury along with a misdemeanor third-degree assault following an incident of domestic violence against his wife in which Copeland allegedly struck her in the face. Copeland received a sentence of two years probation as a result of the plea deal in May of 2019.

Emelianenko has competed in MMA since his conviction, having fought six times following his release from prison in Russian promotions World Fighting Championship Akhmat (WFCA), which merged with Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) to create Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA); Battle on Volga, and Russian Cagefighting Championships (RCC).

RCC released Emelianenko in March of 2019 after the heavyweight fighter was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), resisting arrest, and “insulting a representative of the authorities in the performance of his official duties,” as reported by Russian news outlet Tass.

Since, Emelianenko had been in talks to fight for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), but those negotiations collapsed later this year. According to The Athletic, who interviewed BKFC President David Feldman about some of the promotion’s talent-finding strategies, BKFC terminated their talks with Emelianenko following The Body Lock’s report of the talks, which referenced Emelianenko’s lengthy criminal past.

Copeland, meanwhile, has not fought since his guilty plea. Days after Copeland’s arrest, the PFL released Copeland from the promotion in accordance with PFL’s “company policy” on domestic violence, PFL spokesman Greg Savage told MMAJunkie.

BRAVE CF defended the inclusion of both Emelianenko and Copeland on the shortlist in a prepared statement to The Body Lock, noting that their presence among the 15 names listed does not “mean they have been selected to fight” in the tournament and that the list was compiled “based on their experience, ranking, and big-event experience.”

The promotion also noted that there would be a “full process” devoted to “checking many other details” about the fighters on the shortlist before the selection of four fighters for the tournament was finalized.

Below is BRAVE CF’s statement to The Body Lock in its entirety:

“This is an event where hundreds of fighters have registered. The criteria for the shortlist are based on many factors. By no means does shortlisting mean they have been selected to fight. Fighters are free to register and then they are shortlisted based on their experience, ranking, and big-event experience. There will be a full process of checking many other details, and a full analysis will take place before any further announcement.”

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