Tariq Ismail, Bernardo Sopai seeking to make statement with Brave CF 38 victory

Brave CF’s “European Invasion” continues this weekend in Sweden where Canada’s Tariq Ismai (6-0) will face Greece’s Bernardo Sopai (7-1) at Brave CF 38 in a bantamweight bout on Saturday.

This bout is both fighters’ first 2020 competition. Ismail, 30, is going for a perfect 7-0 record before becoming a free agent.

Tariq Ismail
Tariq Ismail in action against Jalal Al Daaja at Brave CF 27. (Photo by Brave CF)

“I really love Brave,” Ismail said in an interview with MMA Empire.

“Best promotion I’ve been a part of, hands down.”

Saturday’s fight will be Ismail’s third under the Brave CF banner, after he left TKO MMA in 2019 following a dispute with the promotion’s front man, Stephane Patry.

Ismail looks to continue undefeated record

“Desert Storm” has six wins under his belt—all coming via unanimous decision. A natural boxer and muay thai striker, Ismail wants to show his complete MMA arsenal as he progresses.

“I actually train for grappling more than I train for striking,” Ismail said.

“For the past five years, I’ve wrestled three or four times per week. I’ve yet to show my full MMA game; only the right opponent will bring it out of me. If I want to out-strike my opponent, I can. If I want to out-wrestle my opponent, I can. My true specialty [is] controlling the tempo of the fight and manipulating my opponent’s timing and rhythm.”

The Toronto fighter will certainly face a tough challenge this weekend as his opponent has won all seven victories by knockout or submission, and is the top-ranked bantamweight in Greece.

“I studied his fights, devised a game plan with my coaching staff and training partners, and prepared my mind and body for a war,” Ismail said.

“Only difference for this fight is I sparred three or four times per week.”

Ismail is ranked 12 in Canada’s bantamweight rankings and 10 at featherweight. When talking with MMA Empire, Ismail jokingly said his preferred weight class is “140 pounds, right in the middle.”

“At this stage in my career, I prefer bantamweight because I’m much faster,” he said.

Sopai eager to resume competition

At only 19 years old, Sopai is looking to add another win to his resume and rise in the rankings. “The Lion King” considers himself a solid kickboxer and likes to finish his opponents with punches.

Bernardo Sopai
Bernardo Sopai gets his hand raised following his victory at AK Fighting Championships 2. (Photo by Daniel Schälander)

“I don’t usually go to the ground, but if I do, I like to smash [my opponent],” Sopai said in an interview with MMA Empire.

Sopai is the top-ranked flyweight and bantamweight in Greece. In the Europe Balkans, he is ranked 11 at bantamweight and second at flyweight. The young Albanian has no qualms competing against a larger fighter this weekend.

“I don’t really care if [Tariq] fought at featherweight before,” Sopai said.

“It’s the same for me. The fight is in bantamweight.”

A member of Allstars Training Center, Sopai practiced hard for his return to the cage. Even with gym closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked with a small group of trainers outside of the facility.

“Every day is a war with Allstars. Who comes here knows, trust me,” Sopai said.

“I have trained [a lot] for this fight and feel really, really good, more than ready. I don’t do anything different for Ismail, he is one more win on my record.”

For Sopai, this weekend’s fight is another chance to display his dominance in the cage. He hopes another finishing performance will move him closer to main-event status.

“I do my job right, in the best gym and with the best coaches,” Sopai said.

“I’m very confident in myself.”

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