MMA Rising In India: One Year Later

Last summer, crafted out a piece called, “India, The Next Big Home Of MMA“, which focused on the growing market and fighters coming through the region. A market ripe fo the taking, a number of promotions have been attempting to claim the area as its own.

“MMA is the fastest-growing sport in India, and indeed the world, and one of the few sports that offer a fully-fledged career,” says Ajit Sigamani, India treasurer of the IMMAF-WMMAA, the sport’s international governing body. “In India, viewership and interest is tremendous. Indians love a good fight.”

ONE Championship, Kumite 1 League and the TV series Super Fight League have all looked to provide entertainment or the market. The The UFC struck a deal with Sony India to provide content for the area. One of the largest promotions in the world sees potential in a market that is rich with sports fans.

“UFC has garnered a dedicated fan base over the past few years and is one of the most-watched fight sports properties in India,” said Rajesh Kaul, Sony Pictures India’s Chief Revenue Officer. “To meet the growing demand for UFC content, we will telecast both live events and non-live content on the Sony Ten 2 channels.”

All major promotions are now going abroad, as fans outside of the United States have found a passion for combat sports, especially one that can bring in revenue.

While it is not as big as boxing, with Vijender Singh one of the top fighters to come out of the area, MMA is growing. Athletes are starting to get recognition, including:

  • Asha Roka Known as “The Knockout Queen”, Rocka (4-2) has been fighting under the ONE Championship banner since 2019. She won the bronze medal in the boxing World Championships in Bulgaria in 2013. With a 7-0 record, Roka gave MMA a shot, and looks to thrive under the pressure.

“I feel really very proud that a female Indian fighter has a chance to fight on such a big platform, and against an extremely good fighter,” Roka told ONE. “I will showcase my skills to the whole world and prove to other nations that Indian fighters are no less than others.”

  • Ritu Phogat – A gold medalist in the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championships, Phogat (2-0) signed with ONE in 2019. A silver medalist at the U-23 Wrestling World Championships, the 25-year-old is hoping to improve every step of the way. Her wrestling was made for MMA, as seen by her flawless win against Wu Chiao Chen at ONE: King of the Jungle.

“Winning my second match at ONE Championship has been a very good feeling and my confidence level has been boosted further.”

  • Kantharaj Shankar Agasa – A boxer and military man, Agasa (9-2) has managed to make a name for himself as a featherweight. Competing in Brave CF, Agasa is 1-1 with the promotion. His last fight was a unanimous decision win over Nawras Abzakh back in November. His story is truly inspirational, as he looks to climb all the way to the top.

  • Himanshu Kaushik – Another fighter under the ONE banner, Kaushik (4-4) debuted for the promotion in 2018. While he is 1-3, he started his career on a three-fight win streak. Speaking to Cageside Press, Kaushik discussed how there is limited training and resources in India for MMA, especially when it comes to the gym. He is optimistic, however, that the future will be bright when it comes to the sport in his home country.

“This is the very beginning of Indian MMA, I feel after some time we will also win titles… At the present moment, we are very behind the entire international scene. But if we open up good gyms and fighters get good opportunities, then we can grow,” Kaushik stated.

FIGHT MATRIX, one of the top fitness platforms when it comes to MMA in India, sees potential in its growth. Headed by Alan Fenandes, a former MMA fighter with over 17 years of knowledge of the sport, the organization has an idea to motivate the younger generation of fans.

“I always wanted to provide a platform for the young aspiring MMA fighters in the country,” Fenandes told The Statesman. “The journey has been a roller coaster ride so far and it is great to see people showing keen interest in the sport.”

Fenandes is a former WKL Asian and WBU Pro Kickboxing champion, and was involved in a Clash of the Champions tournament-style format in MMA from 2005-2007. With his influence, he is hoping a new revolution in India can grow beyond what he has even dreamed of.

MMA has managed to break down barriers wherever it goes. The sport has made it to the homes of millions of people, maybe even billions. We have already seen it grow in India. Who will be the first one from the area to reach mainstream success like Conor McGregor in Ireland, Weili Zhang in China, Anderson Silva in Brazil, Fedor Emelianenko in Russia and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in Hawaii?

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