‘Good ground to start on amateur MMA circuit and slowly go semi-pro and professional’

Jitendra Khare, vice-president, MMA India federation, explains the purpose of holding an amateur fighting event at High Spirits in the city

pune Updated: Aug 02, 2018 20:44 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
MMA,UFC,fight-night Pune
Jitendra Khare, vice-president,MMA India federation.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

A first of its kind, this event of seven bouts was watched by a niche audience of 200 people late on Wednesday evening. Between the entertainment value and creating a new category for sports events in the city lay the tricky issue of permissions and because mixed martial arts is a contact sport, the big ‘what if?’ question; what if something went wrong. Khare speaks to Pranav Shahaney about fight night in Pune.

What made AIMMA come to Pune to conduct such an event ?

I’m an ex-Puneite so I know the city. There are a number of ambitious youngsters here who have knowledge about various sports, so it felt like the perfect venue. High Spirits is a great venue. The people we interacted with were great to work with, very helpful and supportive, and it just felt apt. The setting might be a night club, but at the end of the day, this is a sport.

What about sanctions and permissions given the aggressive nature of MMA?

Being a federation, we have our association sanctioning the bouts. The venue has their own set of permissions to acquire. That’s how we go about such things. We ensure that everything is in place so that events like these are completely legal with the proper sanctions. We also have doctors on standby from Ruby Hall. So in case any fighter gets injured, there are people to look into it.

What is the motivation for fighters competing here in Pune, given that there is no prize money ?

The fighters are competing here primarily because of their love for the sport and also because they are trying to gain experience on the amateur stage and events such as this gives them a platform to showcase their skills. It is a good ground for them to start on the amateur circuit and then slowly grow to the semi-pro and professional ones. We are at the moment, is sanctioning only amateur bouts, but I’m sure they plan to have a professional circuit as well.

How different is the format here as compared to the UFC?

This is an exhibition tournament. This means that there are no elbows allowed. Knees are allowed only to the body and legs but no knees to the head. In the UFC, you have three five- minute rounds, but amateur tournaments have only three three-minute rounds. Apart from that all the rules are more or less the same, we allow the throws, the submissions and the takedowns.

What growth curve is the sport of MMA on in the country?

We started MMA way back in 2010 and the sport has grown tenfold since then. We have an Indian fighter in the UFC now and the awareness of the UFC is huge in the country. Every other person now knows about it, so now we’re getting better. A lot of young fighters are now getting into the sport.

As a federation, how are you looking to promote the sport?

We’re planning to start two different events under the X1 banner. One is fight nights like the one at High Spirits and the other will be a championship type of event in a larger setting, say a stadium in front of a larger audience where the fighters will fight for title belts and the competitiveness will grow among the youth. At the moment we’re planning to concentrate on grassroots. To be very honest, we do not have too many pro-level athletes in the country at the moment. Thus, I would like to work at the grassroots, develop the amateur talent and then eventually see where that takes us.

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 17:10 IST