MMA-Prospects Staff Picks: MMA Prospects to Watch in 2021

Bo Nickal receives an award. Credit: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.

Bernardo Sopai

Bernardo Sopai (left) throws a kick against Tariq Ismail (right). Credit: MMAViking
  • Selected By: Shawn Bitter
  • Age: 20
  • Nationality: Albania
  • Record: 8-1
  • Division: Bantamweight (135 pounds)
  • Current Promotional Standing: BRAVE CF bantamweight contender

Born in Fier, Albania, Bernardo Sopai (8-1) grew up in the country until the age of 10, when he and his parents moved to Greece in hopes of finding a better future. Two years ago, Sopai moved to Sweden to better his MMA career.

Living in Sweden, Sopai trains with a surging team in All-Stars Training Center, grinding in the gym every day with top-notch athletes like Alexander Gustafsson, Reza Madadi, Daniel and David Teymur, emerging star Khamzat Chimaev, and many more.

Speaking to MMA-Prospects, UFC fighter Guram Kutateladze said of Sopai, “Bernando Sopai is my brother. Very hard working young lion that does not give up and is very tough. The speed of him developing is insane in every area – striking, wrestling, grappling, etc. He’s a very explosive guy. For sure, with his hard work, he is the next future champion and a big star!”

Sopai fights for Brave Combat Federation, the leading promotion in the Middle East. While only 1-0 in the promotion, handing a fighter like Tariq Ismail his first career loss is a significant win for Sopai. It’s not hard to envision a title shot on the horizon, and Sopai himself knows that’s in his future.

“Slowly and slowly, I will destroy everyone, and in 2021 I will become the champion in BRAVE. Tell them to hold my belt for me, because I’m coming to take it!” Sopai told MMA-Prospects.

Despite fighting at such a young age, Sopai fights the style of a savvy veteran. Sopai is extremely well-rounded. He’s finished fights with his hands, leg kicks, submissions, and ground and pound.

“The Lion King” has a diverse striking arsenal complimented with excellent footwork. Sopai is very light on his feet, bouncing around all over the cage frequently switching stances. He’s always throwing in volume, using constant output and combinations; he’s never throwing single strikes and is always throwing something different mixing it up.

Even though he is a polished striker, Sopai will wrestle his opponent on the mat at will, which is the way most of his fights have gone. With heavy top position, Sopai will still methodically pass guard and secure dominant positions. In the moments he’s spent on his back, he’s actively adjusting his hips and attacking submissions off his back. His sole loss came because he kept getting taken down and couldn’t get out underneath his opponent, 7-3 Russian Alexy Shaposhnikov, and he still looked very good in defeat; even off his back, he was the one attacking, putting forward offense.

Sopai is the real deal and at only 20 years of age, the sky is the limit. The thought of him not even being in his prime or at his physical peak is a scary thought with how he’s performed already. Right now, he’s at a good place in his career; he signed with one of the best developmental organizations in the sport in BRAVE CF, and there is no doubt that time is on his side.