In February 2019, Ritu Phogat, one of the wrestling-superstar Phogat sisters, stunned the world by giving up wrestling for a relatively newer combat sport called Mixed Martial Arts or MMA.
A Singapore-based MMA organisation called EVOLVE MMA, which has the highest number of MMA world champions in its directory, has recently signed Ritu. And as of now, she is being touted as the next MMA superstar.
Ritu was among the wresting probables for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Was it the opportunity of MMA stardom or the money in the sport which made her shift sides? We may never know. But, more importantly, what is MMA?
The Quint visited an MMA training club in Shillong. Its co-founder, MMA fighter Isaiah Kharmawphlang, gave us a peek into the history and the rise of the combat sport.
What is MMA? "“Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest growing sport in the world. Multiple martial arts and Olympic sports come together in MMA, like wrestling, karate, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, taekwondo and judo.”" - Isaiah Kharmawphlang, Co-founder, Happy Red Rooster MMA
MMA is at its early stages in India, but internationally, it has garnered a massive fan following. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a blockbuster fighting league which features many MMA legends.
Bengaluru is the hotspot for MMA in India.
"“A lot of IT professionals who went to the US learnt Mixed Martial Arts, particularly jiu-jitsu, in their free time. Over time, they returned to Bengaluru and set up training institutes. So, today, the city has a very good MMA culture.”" - Isaiah Kharmawphlang, Co-founder, Happy Red Rooster MMA
Some of the north-eastern states like Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya are also catching up fast. Isiah’s own training institute, Happy Red Rooster MMA, trains almost 200 fighters from all age groups.
If Ritu manages to win some big MMA fights, then this Phogat sister can do for MMA what her siblings have done for wrestling – make it much more famous.
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