Future of MMA in India – Interview with Sinead McManus, Director, CCF
India has a rich tradition when it comes to martial arts. With the growth of mixed martial arts around the world, sports fans in India have started to embrace this niche sport, and although SFL wasn’t successful in making MMA mainstream in the country, there are other promotions cropping up to cater to the Indian MMA fans.
Combat Cage Fight (CCF) held its first event in Goa in January, and recently hosted its second event. Sinead McManus, the Director of CCF expressed her enthusiasm about the growth of MMA in India, and below is the transcript of our interview.
A lot people always felt that there is a lot of potential for MMA in India. Were there any concerns before the first CCF event back in January? And if so, can you elaborate on the same?
Sinead: No, no concerns. Once I said I can do this, there was nothing to stop me. No one objected and anyone I asked for support, they said 100%. “It’s you Sinead; of course we will help”.
I needed permission from local authorities and they too showed their complete support. Also, working with David D’Souza from Tito’s Nightclubs was also a big help with the cage and venue.
SFL began with a lot of oomph, but the common fan’s interest quickly dwindled. How do you plan to overcome the barrier contact sports always faced in the country?
Sinead: We have already achieved that. CCF rules differ to MMA rules. No elbows, no knees to head and 7 ounce gloves. This formula allows more action and little to no bloodshed.
Having it as an entertainment sport, bringing DJs and putting it in one of the best tourist spots of Goa brings a collective audience and not just sports enthusiasts.
Ladies Bouts are compulsory at CCF, which says it’s not just a man’s sport.
Finally children are allowed. At the recent event, Bonny, our fighter, is a teacher and all her kids came along. (It was) such a great atmosphere.
There is always concern of people looking at MMA as a method of encouraging violence. Can you elaborate on how you plan to tackle this issue?
Sinead: I think I have already passed that concern. Not once has any negativity come on the violence front. I’m a woman promoting this (MMA). I knew in advance that this could be a concern and as said our Combat Cage Fight rules are there – with that there is more skill and technique in the cage, and that’s appreciated. Again women bouts are there; we already have had 2 lots of 5 round bouts. Children are invited. Overall, what I am trying to achieve here is to send our fighters out to the schools to teach self defense. I have informed the Sports Authority of Goa and Ministry of Tourism, and I’m sure this will happen soon.
Can you also throw some light on the success of CCF 1 back in January?
Sinead: It was the perfect night. It got off to slow start, following that some great action fights. There was one heavyweight fight that the audience loved. Following that, we brought local but professional boxer Sonia Parab who hung up her gloves 2 year ago as no opportunities were coming her way. That ladies bout lasted 5 rounds full of action. The night ended with a perfect knock out from, again, a Goan, Nelson Paes. The crowd loved it. The Goans love it when their team wins or in this case a fighter.
Last month has been phenomenal for women’s MMA all over the world. CCF 2 will be headlined by women as well; can you tell us why you’ve decided to go ahead with Bonny and Monika as the headliners?
Sinead: It has happened so organically. Bonny (who resides in Goa) got to hear about Combat Cage Fight and immediately got into training. We were doing our match making for CCF 2 and Bonny was looking strong. We also decided that CCF 2 would be international this time. Again, knowing that it is compulsory that we have a ladies bout, a Great Britain versus India just had to be our finale, our main event.
After CCF 2 and the magnificent show we put on, Combat Cage Fight got recognized as the number one MMA league in India. So there’s nothing stopping us now. We will be doing this for the next 10 years.
What is next for CCF in India? Do you have plans of expanding or putting on shows in other cities in the near future?
Sinead: Combat Cage Fight has been home grown in Goa as all the support that CCF needed to start was here. Also, I presented this concept to the Goa Tourism Board and the Sporting Authority of Goa, and both immediately supported me and felt that this could encourage more international & domestic tourism. Now the season will finish here soon, so first stop I would like to take it to Delhi as there is a massive MMA community there. After that to satellite cities of India and finally back to Goa for the (next) season and we will start the league, both domestic and international.