MMA News: Indian fighter Vaibhav Shetty talks about struggles, beginning late, representing India and KOI Combat Academy (Exclusive)
I had the fortune of talking to Indian MMA fighter, Vaibhav Shetty. Training in KOI Combat Academy, Vaibhav Shetty has become known for his ability to fight under any circumstance.
In the most recent rankings, which came out a day after we talked, it was revealed he was #37 in the world in the Middleweight Rankings.
KOI Combat Academy, where Vaibhav trains, has made it their mission to help Indian fighters and including those who are unable to support their own fighting careers and are on the lookout for more sponsors to help their cause.
He also trains at Rama Reddy Martial Arts for their Jiu-Jitsu facility.
During his interview, I asked him whether it had been difficult for him to fight in MMA, as he had entered the sport at an older age than what is considered normal.
VS: "When you are past thirty and you are trying to train with someone who is 20, like Dinesh and Surbala, they have a lot more energy and a lot faster. It is very easy to get disappointed or feel low, to begin with. Once you are into it, you find your own pace, but initially, it was one of the biggest challenges I faced."
I talked to him also about having to balance between his day job and his passion for fighting. Given that most fighters try to focus on their training and fights, the difficulty was one which might have been some trouble to balance out.
VS: "Luckily the place I work at right now is very supportive of it -- not that they let me go out in the middle of the day to train. They do support the fact that I go out and train and they give me leaves for that. I do have to get up early in the morning so that's part of the thing. I have to get up very early and make sure that training is done before 7 to 7:30 so that I can get to my office on time and get my job done. It's been a bit of a difficult balance, but we have to make time."
At any point in time, entering the world of fighting is not a decision to be taken lightly. Often enough, it takes something special to motivate a person to become a fighter. Vaibhav had exactly such motivation in his life in 2014.
VS: "Very honestly, I did not want to enter combat sports as a sport, to begin with. For 10 years after my MBA, I was not really fit, I was purely into my corporate job in the regular 9-5 then return home -- party, drink, stuff like that. The moment that my kid was born in 2014, that's when I started to take fitness as more of a priority for myself and as an athlete. When you get a kid you realize that maybe there should be other priorities in life other than just a job. Having something that you can pursue will motivate anyone. I thought I could take it up, and then one thing led to another and before I knew it I was competing."
When Vaibhav started training, it was in a gym called Cult. He talked about how the gym helped him early on in his career.
VS: "Cult was the closest gym that I could find with any sort of combat sports. The reason I went to Cult is that I hate going to a regular gym. I cannot do weight training and weight lifting day-in and day-out. Cult had excellent MMA and Boxing program back in the day. They shut down MMA now, but back in the day it was a small proper unit. The trainers they had were professional fighters who could fight in the Super Boxing League and Super Fight League. They were very easy to deal with and were really motivating to make sure that you were training and that you were on track. So I am really thankful to those trainers and Cult for making sure I understood about fighting."
KOI Combat Academy has been key in Vaibhav being able to do what he does. He talked about how the training academy helped him to get where he is now.
VS: "So for me, Vishal and KOI were key in my development in Combat Sports. What has happened in the last 6-7 months while working with Coach Vishal and his team, he has a very unique set of people fighting. There was Roshan earlier, there's Dinesh here who's an excellent wrestler, there's a whole list of people who are excellent in specific skills of martial arts. When you go with them and you work with them, like Surbala is a World Champion Kickboxer earlier, all that helps you in your game. It's not just training one way, but working on different aspects and different backgrounds of people. That's where Coach Vishal has helped immensely. More than that, when I go for tournaments and fights, Coach Vishal has cornered me. In the middle of a fight, your corner is as important as your own skill."
I asked Vaibhav whether he had a message for younger fighters, who might be looking to make a name as well.
VS: "The only way to get good at stuff is to turn up at training. Don't look at learning something fancy pretty quick, don't look at what success people are achieving, just go in and train. The more you train and the longer you train for, success will follow."
Talking about his goals, Vaibhav had some ideas in mind.
VS: "In MMA, I want to represent India in a national and international level and win some medals out there. Other than that, I want to rank in Martial Arts and in Jiu-Jitsu I am rising up the ranks. Getting a top spot in the rankings in my categories would be a good goal."
Finally, someone like Vaibhav who is always working needs some hobbies. Thankfully, he has a few.
VS: "There are a couple of things that I like doing. My kid takes a lot of my time outside of fighting. Other than that, I love gaming on PC or on mobile PUBG. I am a pet lover as well. I have a giant aquarium at home that takes up a lot of my time. Anyone who keeps aquariums will tell you, it takes a lot of money to set it up and maintain it."
Vaibhav currently has a fundraiser going to help support him to represent India at the IMMAF-WMMAA World Championship 2019 in Bahrain which you can find here. He hopes to help represent India and to put the country first.