HT has learnt that the sports ministry is planning to grant the status of a national sports federation (NSF) to the Association of Mixed Martial Arts India (AMMAI).
According to sources, the initiative emerged during Sunday's Super Fight League (SFL) - a professional mixed marital arts tournament held under the aegis of the AMMAI in the Capital. Apart from the sports minister, Ajay Maken, top officials of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) were present to witness the contests.
The question that needs to be asked is why the ministry considering granting NSF status to the AMMAI when several national bodies have been waiting for years to get the nod.
Whether the AMMAI fulfills the criteria is debatable, but what's certain is that it does have the support of heavyweights. "There is a lot of glamour and money associated with the SFL, but whether it will strike root in the country is questionable," said a member of the karate federation, which is among several martial arts units awaiting recognition in the country.
Since 2009, the ministry had stopped granting recognition to NSFs, but started the process again recently.
The ministry has laid down the criteria for granting recognition, but the AMMAI website throws little light on its structure, barring mentioning the name of Daniel Isaac as its president and Jitendra Khare as vice-president. Though there is a mention of a 12-member national committee, there is no list of state affiliates or district units.
Isaac, however, said there were quite a number of state units under its banner. "We have as many as 18 state units affiliated to us," he said over the phone. Reacting to the controversy, which erupted following two of the 'Indian' fighters displaying Indian and Canadian flags on Sunday, Isaac brushed it off as a "personal matter of the fighters", and not an initiative of the organisers.
"Those who have an objection should ask the fighters and not us. We don't encourage such things," said Isaac.
"They (the fighters) are people of Indian origin now living in Canada. The moment we saw it, we took away the flags," he added. There was also confusion over the Indian-ness of the competitors.
Though the SFL website mentions at least three of them - Kultar Singh Gill (80kg catchweight), Gurdarshan Mangat (62kg catchweight) and Lakhwinder Sekhon (lightweight) - as Indians, Isaac clarified that they were Indian-origin Canadian nationals.
If that is the case, can they represent India?