Warrior’s spirit – The unlikely journey of Manjit Kolekar

Manjit Kolekar (right) in action during a fight
Modified 23 Sep 2016

We give, we take; we learn, we grow. Every journey is interesting; from the story of a rich businessman who inherited millions of dollars from his father, to the first black President of the United States – every journey has a story. Similarly, the journey of athletes – the hardships, turmoil and in the end, on very few occasions – the success, serves as an inspiration to millions, and the generations to come.

We live in a country where, even now, sports aren’t seen as a way of life, but as a very minute part of it. Ask anyone who is currently enrolled in a school or college, and they would reiterate the same philosophy followed by thousands of households. The status quo gains more inertia, as we herald the sporting heroes as “rare” and unique; our culture has taught us to follow the most common path, lest we dare to venture into the unknown.

In a country of billion people, till a few years ago, nobody had heard about athletes who were on the same level – financially, in terms of success or remuneration and in popularity, as the cricketers, and there is still a long way to go to achieve parity. We have always been a conservative nation, lost in our own little world, trying to get by with what we have. Very few have been brave enough to question the set ways, and even fewer to take a firm stand.

This leads us to an event on Friday in the United States. Mixed Martial Arts is considered to be the fastest growing sport in the world; in India however, it is still early days. Not too long ago, I had written a piece about the major hurdles a niche sport faces in a country – especially in India. More often than not, the greedy and the corrupt are attracted by an early proposition – a promising sport that will soon catch fire, like it already has in North America, Brazil and Europe.

When the governing bodies of other sports have been tainted with the stain of corruption, it won’t take long for something similar to happen with a niche sport, and that was exactly what happened with MMA in India. Soon, the allure of MMA lured in personalities who started their own gyms, organizations and federations, promising the naïve the worldly pleasures they haven’t heard of before. The sport moved backwards instead of moving forward, and the athletes, who gave their sweat, blood and tears admitted defeat.

However, they say every cloud has a silver lining – an optimistic approach to a relatively harsh reality. One fighter, in particular, personifies the undying spirit of these warriors – the craftsmen who diligently ply their trade at every opportunity they get – which are few and far between. Training with the means given to her, albeit nowhere close to what is given to athletes abroad, she has slowly but surely found herself at the pinnacle of Indian MMA.

Journey of Manjit Kolekar – Defiance and destiny

They say when destiny beckons, not even the world can stop you from achieving what you want to; in Manjit’s case, the world surely tried. From waiting for organizations to fulfil their promises, to waiting for individuals to give her what was owed to her, Manjit’s journey to Invicta Fighting Championship looked unlikely. In her own words, Manjit wasn’t supposed to be in Kansas this weekend, fighting for the biggest all-female MMA organization in the world.

As she checked in, the reality dawned on her: she finally made it. From proving the naysayers and doubters wrong to going against those who were trying to hold her back, Manjit showed indomitable spirit. Manjit will be fighting her toughest opponent till date on September 23rd, but not her toughest opponent outside the cage. For her, making it to Kansas was the biggest victory.

Kaline Medeiros has had a good training camp, and dedicated cornermen who were beside her every step of the way. Manjit, however travelled abroad for the first time, and she had to do it alone. In India, she never spoke in English. However, she had to survive on her own for 3 weeks in a country where very few speak other languages than English.

Manjit isn’t the most technically sound fighter you’d ever meet, if we see things objectively. She had a short training camp in India before leaving for JacksonWink MMA, where she trained for less than two weeks. However, sometimes a person’s character and heart can be the determining factor. After the hardships she had endured just to make it to Invicta FC 19, Manjit is already a winner.

A deity in the making? Hardly; but she can be the inspiration that will push hundreds of other fighters to dream big. Indian MMA is still in its infancy, but we will see the biggest baby steps the sport will take on September 23rd.

Published 23 Sep 2016
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