Lessons from the fall: Pune’s MMA fighter Karan Chauhan grapples with reality of being “thrown with finesse and composure” at Bahrain world championships

Updated on Nov 25, 2019 04:29 PM IST
Chauhan lost in the opening round of the tournament in a bout against Russian featherweight champion Ahmed Gazimagomedov, who went on to win the world championships.
Karan Chauhan (blue) trains with Shaun Loyal (green) at crossbar in Pune.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Karan Chauhan (blue) trains with Shaun Loyal (green) at crossbar in Pune.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByOumar Aga

PUNE Pune boxer turned mixed marital artist, Karan Chauhan, has returned from Bahrain after participating in his very first world championship, in the city of Manama. Chauhan lost in the opening round of the tournament in a bout against Russian featherweight champion Ahmed Gazimagomedov. The Russian went on to win the world championships after defeating Kazakhstan’s Elaman Shalkimbekov in the final.

In terms of success, this was a learning experience for the 21-year-old. Chauhan had the opportunity to spar with two of Connor McGregor’s teammates in Manama. After an early elimination from the World Championships, MMA India president Sharif Bapu has advised Chauhan to take part in regional championships like the Asian, South African and Oceania tournaments in order to gain more experience.

According to Chauhan, MMA is growing in India, but compared to other countries, the standards are still quite low. In conversation with Oumar Aga, Chauhan gets to grips with the tough road ahead.

You rose to fame from the Underground Fight Nights. Will you return to the underground cage in the near future?

For the next two months, I have to focus on my exams. After that, hopefully, I will start competing from January 2020. If Underground Fight Nights has something for me and it is suitable to the time frame I am comfortable with then I will definitely return to the Underground Cage. If not, then MMA India has a bunch of other promotions in which they can give me fights.

Are you keen on pursuing MMA as a profession?

When I went to Bahrain, I called up my mother and my girlfriend, telling them that I want to start doing this professionally. This is the only thing I want to do. Hopefully, one day I will make it and maybe even establish my own organisation.

How well do you think MMA is faring in India compared to what you experienced in Bahrain?

It has to grow and it cannot be where it is right now because we cannot expect it to evolve the way it is evolving in other countries. The Russian fighter was throwing me with such finesse and composure, I knew I was not at his level, and I am one of the best mixed martial artists in India in the feather weight category. That just speaks volumes on how different the levels of MMA are in other countries. I still feel that India is faring well because we have a champion like Mahboob Khan, from Telangana, who won at the world championships last year. We need better facilities, infrastructure and a better understanding of how to train.

Do you agree with the fact that MMA fighters from other countries, like Russia for example, are genetically “stronger” than Indians?

I completely disagree with that fact. There is no excuse for the Indian contingent’s failure in Bahrain, but I do not believe genetics played a part in that. We are not less compared to them, we are just not given the opportunities that they get. MMA is still not a government recognised sport, so there is a lack of proper funding for it. Everybody who wants to train and compete has to pay on their own. I am fortunate enough to have my parents who can pay for everything and that is why I am where I am right now.

What do you have to say about Ritu Phogat’s (medal-winning wrestler) MMA debut?

It reiterates my point about Indian fighters being at par with the rest of the world and not using the lack of infrastructure as an excuse. Although she trains at Evolve MMA in Singapore now, her life long wrestling pedigree is what won her the fight. It was nothing short of a flawless performance.

Who is on your coaching team now?

I have my coach Ismaile Haji who is the head-coach of Ismaile Haji Combat Club. Vinay Kadam is my strength coach, and my grappling and jiu jitsu partner and coach Shaun Loyal. This is my core coaching team. Apart from them, I had a few sparring partners, but they have all gone to different countries to pursue academics. My circle is very small, but it is very strong.

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