The Super Fight League (SFL) flagged off in Mumbai on March 11, followed by fight nights in Chandigarh on April 7 and New Delhi on May 6. “We had a crowd of 15,000-20,000 in Delhi cheering for their favourite fighters.
The response in Mumbai and Chandigarh was more muted, that’s understandable given that mixed martial arts is still new to India,” says co-founder Sanjay Dutt.
“But we are enthused by the fact that people outside India are watching it. We have got 3,000 to 4,000 hits on YouTube from the US and Canada. That has encouraged us to pitch for a second season,” says Sanjay, who has joined hands with Shilpa Shetty’s businessman husband, Raj Kundra, to launch the mixed martial arts fighting league in India.
SFL promises ‘sportainment’ of a different kind. As part of it, Indian fighters are picked from various ‘akhadas’ (wrestling rings) and trained thoroughly before they are made to take on experienced MMA fighters.
MMA is a full combat sport, comprising 36 different styles of fighting, including karate, judo and kung fu. The industry is valued at $2 billion in the US alone and is currently considered the fastest growing sport.
“For us, SFL is not a business or money-making venture. We want to provide an eyeball-grabbing platform to Indian fighters to showcase their skills. It will be a big thrill for us if some of these fighters are picked for the league in the US or UK,” says Sanjay, pointing out that they are only trying to bring martial arts back into the country.
Meanwhile Sanjay has agreed to be part of Shilpa’s first home production. “We are sorting out date issues,” he says, adding, “It’s not a lead role, more of a guest appearance.”
There was also talk of partnering with Raj on a football league. “I’d love to kick it off, but we need stadiums,” he reasons, adding, “We can’t play football on cricket grounds. Until the infrastructure is in place, we will have to keep that plan on the back burner.”