An Eastern European MMA Journal


By Tim Leidecker Apr 27, 2009’s Tim Leidecker traveled to Bulgaria and Slovenia recently to attend two shows promoted by Eastern European powerhouse World Free Fight Challenge. Instead of the usual event report, Leidecker examined why this promotion is successful, conducted an extensive interview with promoter Zlatko Mahic and also caught up with Alistair Overeem, who’s wanting a New Year’s Eve showdown with Fedor Emelianenko.

WFC 7: Guedjev vs. Carvalho

April 3: The first show I attended was WFC 7, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria. At the sauna I bumped into Alan Omer from Germany and Bruno Carvalho from Brazil (via Gothenburg, Sweden), the only two non-Eastern European fighters on the card, who were in the process of making weight. Carvalho was headlining the event and trying to wrestle the WFC middleweight title from defending champion and local hero Lubomir Guedjev. With the help of his experienced cornerman Hamid Corassani, Carvalho easily shed the remaining nine pounds he needed to lose.

A bus took the fighters to the city’s biggest press center, where the weigh-ins were taking place. As nice as the press room was, it also presented difficulties due to the soft floor: The scale suddenly showed most of the fighters a pound over weight. Fighters began doing sprints down the corridors and light grappling in order to break a sweat, which prompted the workers who had nothing to do with the WFC press conference to come out of their offices and shake their heads in disbelief.

In the end, everybody was on weight and had time to explore the city afterward.

“What really astonished me (about Sofia) was the extreme divide between rich and poor,” Corassani told me.

He was right. You either had rich business people driving around in the newest Mercedes or people panhandling for a couple of Lev. Even a couple of blocks down from our four-star hotel, there were ghetto-like circumstances.

April 4: Event day. The venue, Universiada Sport Hall, was a small but mighty multipurpose arena that eventually sold out at 3,000 spectators. One of them was former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, who had just been in Bulgaria shooting “Universal Soldiers: The Next Generation” alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.

Just three bouts went the distance. Contrary to the Bulgarian M-1 team, which made fools of themselves a week earlier, the Bulgarians competing at WFC won three out of a total eight matches against a world team comprised of fighters from Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Serbia and Brazil.

In the main event, defending WFC middleweight champion Lubomir Guedjev held on to his belt in a close encounter with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Bruno Carvalho. The challenger came out guns blazing with his dominant wrestling and improved striking thanks to Hamid Corassani and his new teammates at GBG MMA in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Jani Bozic/

Alan Omer works a
triangle on Kostadin Tabakov.
After scoring a knockdown in the opening seconds, Carvalho worked from top position and controlled the ground fight with his judo and BJJ skills. The second stanza saw more of the same with Carvalho getting takedowns at will and scoring from the top. Following a scuffle, Guedjev found himself in an omoplata submission that had him grimacing in pain. It became clear later that Guedjev had injured his shoulder attempting to escape the hold.

As the bell rang for the final five minutes, both men were visibly raddled following two brutal rounds. Following the umpteenth successful takedown, Carvalho set up in the guard of his opponent looking for a submission on the injured shoulder. Guedjev braced up and reversed the challenger to unleash some solid ground-and-pound, cutting Carvalho above the left eye. The round ended with the challenger desperately working from the bottom for the triangle choke.

Like the famous saying “you have to knock out the Italian to get a draw” goes, the title remained with the champion in an extremely close decision. Even though he was dominated for the majority of the bout, Guedjev showed great heart by finishing the fight with the badly hurt shoulder and mounting the big comeback in the third round. Carvalho, on the other hand, was completely devastated by the decision as he justifiably felt he had done enough to win the fight.

In the co-headliner, European sambo champion Rumen Dimitrov was too much to handle for fellow Bulgarian and kickboxing expert Hristo Shirev. Throughout the fight, the far more experienced Dimitrov put Shirev onto his back at will before stopping him with strikes in the second round. Shirev was unhappy with the stoppage and threatened to go after referee Grant Waterman, but co-promoter Hristo Hristov jumped into the ring quickly to intervene.

The lone heavyweight battle of the night, between Bulgarian fighter Dimitar Radenkov and Drazen Forgac from Croatia, drew a strong reaction from the audience when Radenkov was disqualified for repeated knee strikes to the groin area. In other undercard action, highly promising German prospect Alan Omer put on a clinic against sambo specialist Kostadin Tabakov. After surviving a first-minute scare in the form of a heel hook attempt by the Bulgarian, Omer dominated the fight standing up and on the ground before finishing his extremely durable foe by triangle choke in the third round.

Despite the packed, passionate crowd, promoter Zlatko Mahic, a true perfectionist, was disappointed with certain aspects of production and the controversial disqualification of heavyweight Dimitar Radenkov, which prompted the otherwise relaxed fans to hurl a barrage of plastic bottles into the ring.

“You need to come to Slovenia in two weeks,” he told me. “There you will see the real WFC.”
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