Mixed martial arts (MMA) isn't the most popular sport in India currently, but it is certainly on the rise.
Stars like ONE Championship’s Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat and Arjan “Singh” Bhullar are currently the biggest Indian names making headlines in the international sports community. Both Phogat and Bhullar hail from wrestling backgrounds and have later made the switch to MMA.
Phogat and Bhullar's brave performances inside the cage have inspired many Indians to follow in their footsteps.
Now that we've spoken about Indian wrestlers who switched to MMA let's talk about another of the country's favourite combat sports - boxing. It is a rather well-developed sport in India, and the country enjoys a rich boxing tradition and history.
Ten Indian boxers who could have had success in the MMA:
While it’s certainly anything but easy for boxers to add a robust ground game to their repertoire, it isn't impossible. Over the years, there have been many Indian boxers who could have made great MMA fighters. Some of them might still be able to make the transition.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at a few big names in Indian boxing who could have been great MMA fighters.
1) Vijender Singh
When it comes to Indian boxers who have great potential in transitioning to MMA, WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight Champion Vijender Singh Beniwal is definitely the top pick. Before turning pro, Vijender represented India and won bronze medals at the 2006 Asian Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Singh was later awarded one of the highest civilian awards for distinguished contributors to Indian society, the Padma Shri, and the highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, for his outstanding contribution to Indian sports.
2) Mary Kom
Mary Kom is perhaps the only female Indian boxer whose performances in the ring have amazed the world. She was the first Indian woman to qualify for the Summer Olympics, winning bronze in 2012, and in 2014, the first Indian boxer to win gold in the Asian Games.
Mary Kom is one of the most popular Indian names in the world of combat sports. In 2014, a biopic was also released in her honour, where the titular character Mary Kom was played by popular Indian actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
3) Akhil Kumar
Akhil Kumar employs an 'open guarded' boxing technique which has earned him a notorious reputation as a knockout artist.
His international accomplishments earned him the Arjuna Award for Outstanding Performance in Sports and Games in 2005. A year later, he won the gold medal for India at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the 2008 AIBA World Cup.
4) Jitender Kumar
Flyweight boxer Jitender Kumar also makes the list of professional Indian pugilists we’d love to see inside the cage.
The world became aware of his incredible skills when he represented India at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and brought home a bronze medal.
5) Mohammed Ali Qamar
Mohammed Ali Qamar, named after the heavyweight boxing legend, began his career at the World Amateur Boxing Championship in 1999.
In 2002, Qamar represented India at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. He became the first-ever Indian boxer to bring home the gold; he was given the Arjuna Award for his historic accomplishment.
Qamar was destined for greater achievements, but unfortunately, a persistent injury ended his boxing career.
6) Vikas Krishan Yadav
Vikas Krishan Yadav doesn’t settle for simple wins — he overpowers and absolutely dominates his opponents.
The lightweight boxer brought home a bronze medal from the Youth Olympics in 2010 and the much-coveted gold medal from the Asian Games the same year. Eight years later, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he won another gold medal for the nation.
Yadav is the only Indian athlete to qualify for three Olympic games after Olympic bronze medalist Vijender Singh.
7) Devendro Singh
Devendro Singh even surprised his own coaches when he reached the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championship.
He then went on to win a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and qualified for the Olympics in 2016.
8) Shiva Thapa
Shiva Thapa, who represented India at the 2012 London Olympics, is the youngest Indian boxer to qualify for the quadrennial competition.
He is the third Indian athlete to take home the gold from the Asian Games and the third Indian pugilist to win a medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships.
9) Hawa Singh
Hawa Singh was an Honourary Captain of the Indian Army who claimed the title of Western Command Champion after outpunching the defending champion, Mohabbat Singh.
The Indian Heavyweight dominated amateur boxing in India and Asia for a decade, winning the National Championships 11 times in a row, and becoming the only Indian to win gold at the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games.
Singh co-founded the Bhiwani Boxing Club that produced the Olympic medalist Vijender Singh. He received the Dronacharya Award for Outstanding Coaches in Sports and Games.
10) Pradeep Singh Sihag
Pradeep Singh Sihag belongs to a boxing family. He is the son of a former National Middleweight Wrestling Champion and brother of a former National Middleweight Amateur Boxing Champion.
After picking up 120 wins and three losses in amateur boxing, he went on to win 18 matches as a professional.
During his professional career, Sihag claimed the title of middleweight champion in the World Boxing Council Asian, Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation, IPBO, and Pan Asian Boxing Association.