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MMA more than throwing jabs at a punching bag, says technical director of all-India MMA association

Sharif Bapu, technical director of all India mixed martial arts association on the state of MMA in the country and the road forward.

pune Updated: Jun 06, 2018 16:39 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,MMA,wrestling
Sharif Bapu, technical director of all India mixed martial arts association (AIMMAA) in western Indian and regional head of the central western MMA championship of India.(HT PHOTO)

Sharif Bapu, technical director of all India mixed martial arts association (AIMMAA) in western India and regional head of the central western MMA championship of India, is an active proponent of self-defence classes in the country. He speaks to Pranav Shahaney about the state of MMA in the country and the road forward.

What is the role of AIMMAA in promoting and developing the sport in the country?

We have taken the Indian team to a number of amateur world championships in the United States and Bahrain, as well as Asian level championships. We have also devised a point system for youngsters under the age of 18 who are not eligible for amateur and professional level competitions. This gives them an opportunity to learn and practice the game before they go professional. We have a number of MMA gyms and they are growing in number across the country. We have also organised the Super Fight League”

How has the Super Fight League helped create awareness about MMA?

The Super Fight League is a promotional company. It was founded in 2012 by Raj Kundra and Sanjay Dutt. The tournament has been telecast live on MTV and Sony networks and it’s popularity has been growing over the years. India has the most number of MMA officials in Asia that are recognised by the International mixed martial arts federation. This can be attributed to the success of the league since of them were involved in both seasons of the Super Fight League.”

What is the importance of competitions like the central western MMA championship set to be held in Indore this month?

These tournaments are held to bring amateur talent to the forefront and give them a platform to showcase their skills and eventually rise to participate in the MMA professional circuit. If amateur fighters have a good track record, then they may even be picked up by a promotional company.”

What is your advice to amateurs?

They have to be extremely competitive and develop a good track record in the amateur circuit. They could win a couple of bouts in the domestic circuit, but internationally, it is a completely different ball game. We need better infrastructure as well as qualified physios and dieticians to ensure that fighters have the perfect diet. It is not an easy road ahead and it requires a lot of dedication. Bharat Khandare, India’s first ultimate fighting championship (UFC) competitor, was beaten up in the very first round of his bout. We were happy that one of India’s fighters had made it to the UFC, but unfortunately he could not capitalise on the opportunity. Therefore, it is very important for young fighters to work on their game, build up their regime and stamina and also follow a good diet. It is a lot more advanced than just working out at the gym and hitting a punching bag for practice.”

Why has MMA not found a spot in the sporting map of India?

To be honest, fighters do not have adequate facilities. The infrastructure in the country is not up to the mark and even a small thing such as a blood test costs fighters Rs. 3000. We need more financial support. I request corporates and multinational companies to come forward and support the movement. We regularly pitch the idea of the sport to potential investors and organise a number of presentations explaining the vast reach of the sport. We cite examples of the top UFC fighters being paid millions of dollars per bout. Celebrities like Randeep Hooda and Tiger Shroff have also come out to support us and this is a welcome sign.

Have many women taken up the sport?

A number of women are now looking at MMA as a form of self-defence. In karate and boxing, once the opponent is grounded, they do not know what to do. The federation has informed over 50 lakh women about the importance of the MMA and its application as a self-defence tool.”

where do you see MMA in five years?

It will be the biggest combat sport in the world given its popularity in every country. We have also got in touch with the Indian Olympics committee and there are discussions about making it an Olympic sport by 2028. There is progress on every front and I am happy with the way the future is shaping up.

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 16:30 IST