"People are gradually understanding that MMA is not just a street fight but a legitimate sport"- Ms. Krishna Shroff, Co-Founder, Matrix Fight Night

"People are gradually understanding that MMA is not just a street fight but a legitimate sport"- Ms.Krishna Shroff, Co-Founder, Matrix Fight Night
"People are gradually understanding that MMA is not just a street fight but a legitimate sport"- Ms.Krishna Shroff, Co-Founder, Matrix Fight Night

Matrix Fight Night (MFN) has revolutionized the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene in India since its establishment in 2019. With 11 successful seasons under its belt, MFN has attracted both global MMA stars and talented Indian fighters, who have showcased their skills across various weight categories. The platform has allowed Indian fighters to shine and prove their mettle against some of the best opponents from around the world.

Broadcasted on Disney+Hotstar, Matrix Fight Night has captured the attention of MMA enthusiasts across the nation. The upcoming MFN 12 Fight Night, scheduled for July 1, 2023, at the Noida Indoor Stadium in Sector 21, promises to be another thrilling event.

As the promotion continues to grow, it has not only elevated the sport of MMA in India but also provided a unique blend of entertainment and sport through high-energy fights, music performances, and celebrity appearances.

Sportskeeda had the privilege of engaging in a conversation with the co-founders of MFN Ms. Ayesha Shroff and Ms. Krishna Shroff, who talked about their commitment and passion for MMA and the Matrix Fight Night undoubtedly leaving a lasting impact on the Indian MMA landscape.

Could you provide an overview of the journey of Matrix Fight Night (MFN) since its inception in 2019? How has it contributed to the growth of MMA in India?

Ayesha Shroff - The collaborative project involving my children, Tiger and Krishna, and myself has been a remarkable endeavor. Krishna's two-decade passion for MMA and Tiger's global action hero status has greatly contributed to our initiative. Recognizing the lack of high-quality MMA promotions in India, we decided to take action and establish Matrix Fight Night (MFN).

Contrary to misconceptions, MFN was not a vanity project or a one-time event. We embarked on a mission to revive MMA in India and provide a deserving platform for our talented fighters. Despite initial challenges in securing sponsors and raising awareness, we persisted. After 11 successful events, we take immense pride in resurrecting MMA in our country and attracting interest from major global promotions.

Our efforts have transformed MMA into a viable profession for fighters, offering substantial paychecks and allowing them to pursue their passion full-time. Witnessing the positive impact on their lives and the growing recognition of Indian MMA on the global stage has been incredibly fulfilling.

We remain committed to making India shine in the world of MMA through collaboration, dedication, and the unwavering support of our fans and sponsors.

MFN has attracted international MMA stars to compete against talented Indian fighters. How has this cross-cultural exchange impacted the growth and development of Indian MMA fighters?

Krishna Shroff - The impact of MFN on our Indian athletes has been immense. Our ultimate goal has always been to provide them with a platform to showcase their skills and gain recognition on a global scale. To reach the next level and compete in various promotions worldwide, it was crucial for them to face challenges from fighters of different nationalities.

This process allowed them to assess their abilities and position before taking the significant leap forward, avoiding potential setbacks. By including international fighters on our cards and pitting them against our champions, our fighters have greatly benefited from the experience, as growth often thrives in the face of adversity.

In your opinion, what sets MFN apart from the MMA promotions in India? And how does MFN strive to create a unique experience for both the fighters and the audience?

Ayesha Shroff- Despite being a relatively new promotion compared to larger organizations like the UFC, we have made significant progress since our establishment in March 2019.

We consider ourselves a boutique promotion, providing unique offerings that set us apart. We are the first global promotion to ensure our fighters, offering them insurance coverage.

Additionally, we sponsor training camps in Bali and Thailand for fighters competing for title belts on our MFN cards. This allows them to experience overseas training and further enhance their skills.

During fight week, we prioritize the well-being of our fighters by implementing strict safety protocols and maintaining open communication with them and their coaches. Our goal is to provide them with the best possible experience and support throughout their fight journey.

Krishna Shroff - Furthermore, our professionalism extends to every aspect of our organization. From top-tier fighters to officials running the show, we strive to have the absolute best personnel involved. Our talent pool is exceptional, and we believe it is what sets us apart from the rest.

Despite our small team, we foster a close-knit environment where personal connections are valued. This allows us to stay connected with our fighters, understand their needs, and provide the necessary support.

With a focus on coordination, communication, and individual attention, we aim to deliver the best possible experience for our fighters and ultimately showcase their finest performances on fight night.

Could you share some insights into the selection process of fighters participating in MFN? And what criteria do you consider when choosing the lineup for each event?

Krishna Shroff - We prioritize our close relationships with the fighters, following their journeys from the beginning and understanding their attributes, strengths, and weaknesses. This allows us to create exciting matchups that will thrill the audience.

Our focus is on performance rather than the number of fights on a fighter's record. We value well-rounded mixed martial arts fights that showcase a balance of groundwork, grappling, and striking. We aim to provide an entertaining experience for fans who come to witness two fighters engaging in stand-up combat.

In addition, we prioritize fighters who understand that their job extends beyond the cage. We look for individuals who actively build their profile outside of the sport and serve as positive ambassadors for mixed martial arts. It is crucial for our fighters to connect with the audience and generate excitement leading up to their fights.

By putting in the extra effort before their bouts, fighters can create a buildup of anticipation that resonates with fans. Ultimately, our focus on exciting matchups, well-rounded performances, and fighters who excel both inside and outside the cage contributes to the overall success of our promotion.

MFN is broadcasted on Disney+Hotstar. So how has this partnership influenced the regional visibility of MFN among Indian and global MMA fans?

Krishna Shroff - Our presence in the MMA community has been remarkable, capturing the attention and support of fans. When people think of MMA in India, our promotion, Matrix Fight Night, is the first name that comes to mind.

Through our partnership with Hotstar, we have taken our visibility to the next level, reaching audiences who may not have previously followed the sport. This exposure has significantly contributed to our growth and increased awareness among a wider audience.

Ayesha Shroff - The live broadcast of Elephant Den on Hotstar marked a significant milestone for us. The event received an overwhelming viewership, surprising both us and Hotstar.

The success of MFN 11 was particularly notable, as it witnessed a remarkable 500 percent increase in viewership compared to MFN 10. This extraordinary growth demonstrated to Hotstar the immense potential of being part of our promotion, recognizing the opportunity to be involved in a breakthrough moment for Indian MMA.

NFN has completed 11 successful seasons, looking back, what have been the most successful or memorable milestones in the history of MFN?

Krishna Shroff - Our trajectory and growth as a promotion have been unparalleled, not only in India but worldwide. One particular moment that truly stood out was our comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The energy and excitement surrounding our first show back with live fans, specifically MFN 7, was something truly special. Having the audience and supporters present amplified the entire event, emphasizing that the show revolves around the fighters and the performances they deliver.

The presence of fans motivated and inspired the fighters, knowing that all eyes were on them, and the sound of cheering in the stadium created an unforgettable atmosphere.

This post-COVID comeback event holds a special place as a personal favorite memory. It symbolizes our resilience and the collective passion shared by fighters, fans, and the entire Matrix Fight Night community.

It was a powerful reminder of the integral role fans play in elevating the overall experience and showcasing the incredible talent and dedication of our fighters.

As MFN continues to evolve and grow, what are your aspirations for the future of professional MMA in India? Are there any new initiatives or plans in the pipeline that you will like to share?

Ayesha Shroff - As we navigate the future of Matrix Fight Night, we recognize the need for financial support to propel our growth. While securing sponsors and funding has been a challenge, we are determined to make progress.

Our family's deep passion for this project and our background have allowed us to overcome obstacles thus far. However, to reach the next level, a substantial influx of funding is essential. We are already in discussions with global players and anticipate positive news in the near future.

Prioritizing the fighters, we aim to increase their pay packets, serving as an inspiration and setting a benchmark for aspiring fighters in India to work hard and achieve greatness in the sport.

On a more grassroots level, we are actively working on the development of a state-of-the-art fight camp located just outside Mumbai. This property, owned by our family, will be transformed into a world-class facility.

Our vision is to create a thoughtful exchange program, where Indian fighters, as well as fighters from around the world, can access the camp. With a focus on knowledge exchange and training, the camp will host Indian and international coaches, providing a conducive environment close to nature.

The availability of top-notch facilities will undoubtedly be a game-changer, further propelling the growth of Matrix Fight Night and fostering the development of fighters on a global scale.

How do you perceive the impact of MFN on the overall sports culture in India, particularly with regard to the acceptance and popularity of MMA?

Krishna Shroff - Introducing the concept of MMA in India has been a significant challenge, particularly when it comes to attracting sponsors. However, through Matrix Fight Night (MFN), we have successfully been able to raise awareness and educate the public about the sport.

With the involvement of top-notch fighters and the demonstration of rules and regulations, people are gradually understanding that MMA is not just a street fight but a legitimate sport.

Ayesha Shroff - Increasing knowledge and understanding about MMA remain crucial factors in its growth and acceptance within the Indian community. Furthermore, as spectators realize the level of athleticism required in MMA, they are beginning to recognize that MMA fighters are elite athletes, possessing exceptional mental acuity, fight IQ, and the courage to step into the cage.

Krishna Shroff - The sport's professionalization is another key aspect that has contributed to its growing respect and recognition. As fighters receive their deserved compensation, MMA is gaining credibility as a profession.

Initially, fighters faced challenges even convincing their own families about pursuing this career path. However, now, at each MFN event, we witness the gratitude and appreciation from the fighters' parents, siblings, and loved ones, who acknowledge the opportunities and support provided by MFN.

This shift in perception has elevated MMA's status as a profession and as a respected sport in our country.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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