In 2012, celebrated professional boxer Amir Khan and British business tycoon Bill Dosanjh created the Super Fight League (SFL), in an attempt to setup a platform for Indian Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters.
It also brought in fighters from across the globe to give Indian fighters the required exposure for future international events. Since it's inception, the league has helped MMA become the second highest viewed sport online in India, behind cricket.
Considering the popularity of cricket in India, SFL has successfully capture the young Indian market, which is slowly but surely entering the contact sports realm.
Now heading into it's third season, Sportskeeda caught up with SFL CEO Bill to discuss how the new edition will change India's MMA scenario.
Q.India as a sporting nation is extremely cricket centric, how do you plan to inculcate an MMA culture or even digress the perception from the standard norm?
One of the reasons MMA is the fastest growing sports in USA is because contact sports is in their educationsystems. For example wrestling is a part of every high school in the nation, similarly in India, we have the likes of wrestling in ‘akhadas,’ and to a massive extent Kabaddi in rural areas as well. Hence I firmly believe the core fundamental definitely exist in here, it’s now our job to streamline it.
The fact that we are the second highest viewed sports league online, just behind cricket, also highlights how the young crowd really want to be a part of it.
Q. Could give us some insight into the upcoming MMA league in India?
In the coming few weeks, you will get to learn a lot about the things that we have planned. We really want to keep it a surprise as it will be quite intriguing to see this implemented in MMA. What I can tell you is that the team format has caught up with sport in India and we are looking to capitalise on that concept.
Q. You have done several live shows in the USA, how do you think the American and Indian MMA scenario are different?
I'll tell you what, US of course has pioneered the broadcasting of the sport. However, social media numbers in India have actually been very positive. You log onto Twitter, FB or YouTube, the numbers for SFL are very high. Both are very different, but as I said the core fundamentals are same, and we are expecting it to only get better.
Q, Amir Khan is arguably one of the most famous boxers in the world, are there any plans to use him as a tool to promote the league abroad?
Absolutely, I think after Pacquaio and Mayweather Aamir is one of the most famous boxers internationally. His fight on May 7 in Las Vegas is a headline fight, that’s how popular he is. He is electrifying around the ring and has a sense of agility about him, which him very popular. He is aware of the popularity of MMA in the US and UK, and wants to build it here in India. Ever since we setup this brand, our goal has been to bring the brand to India.
Q.Will there be a major TV broadcaster as well for the league this time?
Definitely, we are talking to several of the big sports channels, who seem very positive about what we have pitched forward to them. We really want add to our online presence. The Pro Kabaddi League showed how TV broadcasting changes a sport, and definitely we want to be a part of that as well. There will definitely be a broadcaster.
Q.Reebok recently launched MMA gear and partnered with the UFC, are other famous brand planning on cashing in?
Yes, there are sports brands who have approached and we are in talks with them to build a relationship. Recently, SFL fighter Dhruv Chaudhary was part of a Skoda advertisement campaign, which did really well. Such exposure help us in putting forward a the MMA concept to the Indian mass.
Q. As you know the ISL became one of the highest viewed leagues in the world, due to India’s population. Should SFL expect the same?
Since India is a highly populated country, the numbers will be high in terms viewership. But our goal is to related each an every audience member to the sport, so that people actually start participating in it as well.
Q.Is the ultimate goal to match UFC’s success in the USA?
We want to create our own legacy, our motto is not to ape the UFC, of course they have been very successful when it comes to marketing their product. We have a different landscape here, and also have an advantage because we are the first market drivers. Our realistic goal is that each MMA fighter can connect with Indian mass. Right now we are the third largest sports promotion agency, and SFL success will help us do better globally.