Brave 24’s Aidan James on invite-only event, Cameron Else and Welsh MMA scene

BRAVE CF make their debut in the nation’s capital on Thursday evening from the Copperbox Arena for an event being billed as a ‘once in a lifetime experience’. It will feature a crop of talent from all over the globe performing in front of an audience of political influencers, businessmen and celebrities with the aim of elevating the sport of MMA to a whole new level in this country. Money can’t buy a ticket to BRAVE 24: London as it is an invite-only event intended to encourage networking among some of the biggest stakeholders around. On the evening’s main card, Aidan James (4-0) takes on Cameron Else (6-4) in a bantamweight contest which may have title implications.

James made his professional debut in April 2017 but he first started competing in MMA long before then. His roots in the sport can be traced back to 2014 when he began his amateur career in his home country of Wales. Many fighters take two or three amateur bouts to gain some experience of what competition is like before taking the step up to the pro game. However, in the span of around three years, James gained experience over eleven contests including in the IMMAF World Championships which isn’t the norm. James didn’t plan for his amateur career to last that long at first but is thankful that it did due to the many lessons he learnt from it.

“When it comes to my amateur career, I was actually going to turn professional a little bit earlier,” said James. “However, I lost in the World Championships after six amateur fights and we could see there were aspects of my game that I needed to work on. My coach and I decided that I should stay as an amateur, building my craft in the process almost like an apprentice. When the time came to go pro, I was ready at that point and I jumped straight into the deep end as well. I’ve taken on tough guys with a lot more experience than me and so far I’ve been fine. The amateur fights have helped me a lot and I’m really glad I extended that point in my career.”

The undefeated, Welsh competitor trains out of the Chris Rees Academy in Swansea full time and feels that preparation for this upcoming fight has gone perfectly. He has many high-level training partners including UFC bantamweight, Brett Johns, EBI and Polaris grappler, Ashley Williams and Scott Pederson who push him every day. James is grateful that his teammates include specialists over a range of different disciplines so he can’t become complacent in any area of his game. Due to this and the current MMA landscape in Wales, he plans to remain there for a long time.

“It is clear to see that the MMA scene in Wales is booming right now,” stated James. “IMMAF have made a huge difference allowing competitors to take part in youth championships so more and more kids are jumping into the sport. I believe we are about to go through another phase of seeing breakout stars as the younger generation can participate now rather than having to wait until sixteen to taste MMA competition. Even though it is doing very well right now, I think Welsh MMA will absolutely explode over the next two years. In my opinion, we will have a lot more high-level, professional fighters coming out of Wales than ever before relatively soon!”

In only his second professional fight, James was signed to BRAVE CF and has remained there since. He has defeated Tommy Martin, Frans Mlambo and Jalal Al Daja in the promotion, finishing them all in the process. During this run of competition, James has travelled all over the world to locations such as Pakistan and Jordan which are opportunities he is really thankful for. This is just one of a number of different factors that makes working with BRAVE CF such a positive experience for him.

“I’ve competed in different countries since I turned pro but that has been the same since my amateur days,” explained James. “Back then, my fights were usually in England so I was always travelling away and I also fought in Las Vegas for the World Championships. One of the reasons that I signed with BRAVE CF was because I knew they put on shows across the globe so they can accommodate what I like to do. I want to see the world, experience different cultures, meet new people and I don’t feel any more pressure when travelling to different places to compete. In fact, going to other countries almost takes my mind off of the fight. It all helps to open my mind and enjoy the MMA lifestyle of travelling and fighting.”

“Working with BRAVE CF is brilliant,” continued James. “As a fighter, you get treated really well and you get shown a side of things that most competitors don’t really experience until they get to a higher level with the likes of Bellator and the UFC. You have a fight week schedule including media opportunities and get a full build up to the event rather than just showing up on the Friday and then fighting on Saturday. The amazing staff make sure all fighters are sorted and have everything they need. I couldn’t be happier with the promotion to be honest.”

On Thursday night, James will be taking on veteran of the UK scene, Cameron Else, who will be looking to extend his first round finishing run to three. Else has competed for UCMMA, BAMMA and Cage Warriors so has amassed a lot of experience over his ten fight career. He has finished every single one of his victories in the first round so James will need to be wary of the threat that his opponent poses early. Due to changes that Else has made to his camp, James believes he will be facing the best version of his opponent yet but is prepared to take any openings the Englishman presents.

“I respect Else a lot,” discussed James. “As a kid, I followed the UK MMA scene for years and his name has always been around. He’s faced good, top guys and he fought for the BAMMA belt too. To add to this, he’s served his country as a paratrooper so I know he will have a good mindset. Now that he’s with Greg Jackson training out in Albuquerque and doing everything correctly, I believe I will be facing the best ever version of Cameron Else. With him being a veteran, it’s a good test for me and I think it will be an exciting fight.”

“When it comes to fighting, I don’t make predictions. I just go in there and try to embrace the moment which I’ve always done. During the fight, I see what’s going on and then decide from there what to do. You can’t predict the future so I like to be in the moment and let my body take over,” said James.

Around 300 elite personalities from around the world will be in attendance for BRAVE 24: London which will create a unique atmosphere that the fighters wouldn’t have experienced before. Chris Eubank Sr, Dan Hardy, Aaron Chalmers, boy-band Blue and one of Brazil’s biggest hip-hop artists, MC Guime, are among the stars on the guest list. Nobody really knows what the event will be like or how it will run which is all part of the intrigue surrounding the show. However, James isn’t approaching this contest differently to any other fight and hopes that those who may never have seen MMA live before will leave the Copperbox with a positive impression of the sport.

“With it being an invite-only, private event, I’m not too sure what to expect,” commented James. “I haven’t really thought too much about fighting in front of any famous people or influencers. That doesn’t matter to me anyway. Once I get into the cage, I’m just going to focus on my opponent from the get go and that’s it. I’m interested to see what it will be like though. Come fight night, I’ll enjoy it, embrace the moment and hopefully do what I have to do.”

“For those who will be experiencing live MMA for the first time, I’m expecting BRAVE to put on a massive production,” predicted James. “What I want those people to take away from the event is to just see the spirit of the fighters. We aren’t thugs who link in with the whole ‘cage fighting’ stereotype. In reality, we are professional athletes who train day in, day out, twice a day, six days a week. We sacrifice missing out on things like family and other simple enjoyments in life with the weight cutting aspect of the sport. It is a strict, hard lifestyle and what we do as fighters isn’t something that should be overlooked.”

With a victory on Thursday night, James could well establish himself as the next big prospect to keep an eye out for the on the European circuit. This could garner even more attention if some of the VVIP’s in attendance take an interest in him and look to broaden the exposure of the sport in this country. It may be a seminal moment for MMA as we know it if one of the outcomes from the event is wider acceptance in the community which would benefit James and other fighters on the whole.

BRAVE 24: London can be viewed for free at www.bravecftv.com on Thursday evening at 5.30pm BST.

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