The devil in disguise: Exposing the truth about MMA in India
When Raj Kundra and Sanjay Dutt formed SFL back in 2012, they vowed to usher a new era in the sports genre in the country. The Super Fight League planted seeds of hope and opportunity, giving the younger generation of fighters a platform to showcase their skills and talent, and make a name for themselves. Finally, India was set to embrace Mixed Martial Arts, and although other contact sports such as grappling and boxing were still in their infancy in the country, an organization concentrating on MMA was seen as the next big venture in the second most populated country in the world. But during the past 3 years, it has proved to be the exact opposite of what was initially imagined.
A country like India embraced and gave Khali a hero’s welcome when he flew down to India for a promotional tour many years ago. Bollywood heavyweights such as Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan were eager to spend a few minutes with the giant, and the media and the press couldn’t get enough of Khali. If a scripted sport such as professional wrestling could garner such a huge fanbase, then MMA, at least on paper, should’ve attracted millions of Indian fans. The sad truth is, no global organization has concentrated on the Indian market, and one of the MMA organizations in India, which was seen as the pioneer and architect of the sport in India was ultimately responsible for the sharp decline of interest for the sport in the country.
While everyone would agree that organizations had failed miserably to market themselves as a niche industry, the truth behind their failure is quite shocking. Like many other organizations that have been successful in duping the common man, one of the MMA organizations managed to allure quite a number of fighters by making false promises, and in the end, left them high and dry. Large number of fighters had to leave the organization mid way, as they weren’t getting paid, and worse, they were being lied to.
But perhaps, the organization’s biggest scapegoats were the Indian fighters themselves, who were promised decent paychecks and other luxuries. It was reported that while most of the fighters haven’t received any payment in the last 6 months, other fighters were forced to stay with the organization. It has been reported that the organization had even refused to show the fighters their contracts, which can only be seen as bonded labor. The management had seized the passports of the fighters to make sure that they’re stranded, and cannot pursue their careers outside of the organization.
While most of the foreign fighters who were contracted to organization had left, the pitiful state of the Indian fighters still remains the same. One of the fighters who faced problems was Charmaine Tweet, who also fought the now UFC women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey couple of years ago. When she asked for the money the organization owed her, the owner proceeded to fire her via e-mail! You can read more about it here.
It was reported that the Indian fighters aren’t getting paid even after a few months since their last fight! With no source of income and unable to compete in any other organization, these fighters have no other alternative but to sit tight lipped, and watch the officials make a mockery of the sport. With conditions like these, there is no wonder that the organization was unable to make any kind of impact in India.
In the coming days, I will be interviewing the fighters from the organization who have summed up enough courage to go against the powers that be, even if it jeopardizes their careers and leaves them with no income for the foreseeable future. It’s time that the MMA fans in India stand together and put an end to the tyranny of these organizations, and ensure that the fighters realize their dreams, and earn what they deserve. Make sure to check back soon, as we have a lot of interesting things from the world of MMA and UFC.