Most people would think of cricket if you asked them to name a sport associated with Indians. Very few people would mention mixed martial arts, but the combat sport is becoming increasingly popular in India. That popularity recently received a shot in the arm when Anshul Jubli became the latest Indian male to compete professionally in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts elite-level promotion. Here are five Indian mixed martial artists making their mark on this exciting sport.
Anshu Jubli was born in the village of Bhatwari in January 1995 but spent his childhood in various Indian states due to his father’s job with the Border Security Force. In 2015, Jubli watched mixed martial arts with his friends, instantly becoming hooked on the sport. After watching videos of Firas Zahabi, a Lebanese-Canadian MMA teacher, and MMA instructor John Danaher, Jubli decided to leave his job as a school teacher and turned his attention to mixed martial arts.
Jubli debuted in professional MMA at Matrix Fight Night in June 2019. Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff founded Matrix FIght Night, and Jubli became a star of the promotion, winning five fights in two years. He earned a UFC contract after defeating Indonesia’s Jeka Saragih in the UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak. Jubli faced Mike Breeden at UFC 294 in October 2023. He was an underdog in the latest UFC Vegas betting odds, not least because Breeden missed the weight by 3.5 pounds. Jubli was the brighter of the two fighters in the opening two rounds, but Breeden’s experience showed in the third round, and Breeden knocked out Jubli with a flurry of punches.
Jubli may have lost his first UFC fight, the first loss of his career, but he has a bright future ahead.
The History and Evolution of MMA
Mixed Martial Arts, often referred to as MMA, is a dynamic and exhilarating combat sport that combines various forms of martial arts techniques. The history of MMA can be traced back to ancient times when different cultures around the world practiced a variety of fighting styles.
However, it was not until the early 1990s that modern-day MMA began to take shape. With the founding of organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), MMA gained mainstream attention and started gaining popularity among both fighters and spectators.
In its early stages, MMA showcased fights between practitioners of different martial arts disciplines, pitting karate against wrestling or jiu-jitsu against boxing. These clashes highlighted the effectiveness of each art form while also revealing their limitations in certain situations.
As time went on, fighters realized that in order to truly excel in this evolving sport, they needed a well-rounded skill set. This led to the development of what is now known as mixed martial arts – an amalgamation of striking techniques from disciplines like boxing and muay thai combined with grappling techniques from wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
The evolution of rules within MMA has also played a significant role in shaping the sport. Originally considered brutal and lacking regulation, efforts were made by governing bodies to introduce safety measures such as weight classes, time limits for rounds, and banned moves like eye gouging or strikes to the groin area.
These changes helped transform MMA into a legitimate athletic competition recognized worldwide. Today’s professional fighters are highly skilled athletes who undergo rigorous training regimens encompassing strength conditioning, technical drills, and sparring sessions.
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Different Styles and Techniques in MMA
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a dynamic combat sport that combines various martial arts disciplines into one exhilarating form of competition. With its roots tracing back to ancient civilizations, MMA has evolved over the years, incorporating techniques from wrestling, boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and more. The fusion of these styles creates a captivating display of skill and strategy inside the octagon.
Wrestling plays a crucial role in MMA as it provides fighters with exceptional takedown skills and ground control. Wrestlers excel at utilizing leverage to take opponents down to the mat and secure dominant positions. On the other hand, striking arts like boxing and Muay Thai equip fighters with powerful punches, kicks, elbows, and knees that can cause devastating damage.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on submissions such as chokes or joint locks to force an opponent into submission. This grappling art emphasizes technique rather than brute strength. By studying BJJ techniques along with wrestling base skills for takedowns, fighters gain an advantage when transitioning from standing positions to ground-based attacks.
Benefits of Practicing MMA
Are you looking for a challenging and exhilarating way to stay fit? Look no further than Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), a sport that not only tests your physical strength but also hones your mental agility. Engaging in MMA training can have numerous benefits that extend beyond the confines of the gym or octagon.
First and foremost, practicing MMA is an exceptional workout. The combination of striking, grappling, and ground techniques requires full-body engagement, helping you build endurance, improve flexibility, and develop explosive power. With each session, you’ll burn calories like never before while sculpting lean muscle mass.
In addition to its physical benefits, MMA training also teaches valuable self-defense skills. Learning various martial arts disciplines equips individuals with essential techniques to protect themselves in real-life situations. This knowledge instills confidence and empowers practitioners both inside and outside the ring.
Moreover, participating in MMA fosters discipline and mental toughness. Training sessions push individuals out of their comfort zones as they face new challenges head-on. Developing resilience through perseverance builds character traits that extend far beyond athletic pursuits.
Furthermore, engaging in MMA provides an opportunity for personal growth by promoting self-awareness and control over one’s emotions. In the heat of combat or during intense sparring sessions, practitioners learn how to manage adrenaline rushes effectively while staying focused on strategy and technique.
Famous MMA Fighters and Their Journeys
The world of mixed martial arts has produced some truly legendary fighters whose journeys have captivated fans around the globe. These athletes, with their incredible skill, determination, and resilience, have become icons in the sport.
One such fighter is Conor McGregor. Hailing from Ireland, McGregor’s meteoric rise to fame is nothing short of remarkable. Known for his brash personality and knockout power, he quickly became a fan favorite. McGregor’s journey took him from humble beginnings to multiple championship titles in different weight classes.
Another notable name in the MMA world is Ronda Rousey. With her dominant judo skills and fierce attitude, Rousey revolutionized women’s MMA. Her unbeaten streak and groundbreaking achievements made her a true pioneer in the sport.
We can’t forget about Anderson Silva either. The Brazilian fighter showcased unparalleled striking abilities during his prime years as UFC Middleweight Champion. Silva’s fluid movements inside the octagon left opponents bewildered and fans mesmerized.
These fighters’ journeys are filled with triumphs and setbacks alike, but they all share one common trait – an unwavering passion for their craft. They serve as an inspiration to aspiring fighters worldwide by proving that hard work pays off.
Their stories remind us that success in MMA requires not only physical prowess but also mental strength and sheer determination. It takes countless hours of training, sacrifice, and overcoming obstacles along the way.
How to Get Started in MMA
Interested in exploring the world of mixed martial arts? Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting out, getting started in MMA can be an exhilarating journey. Here are some steps to help you kickstart your training and embrace the warrior within.
Do your research. Familiarize yourself with the different disciplines that make up MMA, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing. Understanding these styles will give you a solid foundation for your training.
Next, find a reputable gym or training facility near you. Look for experienced coaches who specialize in MMA and have a track record of producing successful fighters. Take the time to visit different gyms and observe classes to ensure it’s the right fit for you.
Once you’ve chosen a gym, start with basic conditioning exercises to build strength and endurance. Focus on cardio exercises like running or jump rope to improve stamina. Incorporate weightlifting into your routine to develop power and explosiveness.
Bharat Khandare was the first Indian to sign with the UFC, serving as an inspiration to young Indian combat sports fans. Born in Maharashtra, Khandare was a keen wrestler who transitioned to MMA because he dreamed of testing his skills on a global platform. Khandare gained a reputaiton for aggressive striking and quick footwork while competing in the Super Fight League promotion, where he won all five of his bouts.
In November 2017, Khandare faced China’s Yadong Song at UFC Fight Night 122 in Shanghai, becoming the first Indian-born fighter in the UFC. Unfortunately, Khandare lost in the first round after he could not escape Song’s front choke. That fight turned out to be Khandare’s one and only UFC contest.
Arjan Singh Bhullar
Arjan Singh Bhullar is a heavyweight fighter of Indian descent, although he was born and raised in Canada. Bhullar has a background in freestyle wrestling and represented Canada in the Olympics before turning his attention to mixed martial arts.
Bhullar made his professional MMA debut in the Battlefield Fight League in November 2015 and became the promotion’s heavyweight champion in October 2015. After six consecutive victories, Bullar signed with the UFC, making his debut in September 2017.
He fought five times on UFC cards, winning four and losing one contest. He has since switched allegiances to the Asia-based MMA promotion ONE Championship. Bhullar won his first fight, then became the ONE Heavyweight champion in April 2021 after defeating Brandon Vera in two rounds. Unfortunately, Bhullar was unsuccessful in his first title defense in June 2023, losing to Russia’s Anatoly Malykhin.
Ritu Phogat is from the famous Phogat wrestling family, so unsurprisingly, she became a professional MMA fighter. Phogat won a gold medal at the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Singapore and India’s first-ever silver medal in the World U-23 Wrestling Championships in Poland in November 2017.
Two years after leaving wrestling behind, Phogat signed with ONE Championship. At the time, she stated she would become India’s first female MMA champion. After winning five of her first six battles, Phogat looked set to make good on that promise. She then progressed to the final of the ONE Championship Atomweight Grand Prix, where Stamp Fairtex of Thailand. The Thai star forced Phogat to submit after locking her in an excruciatingly painful armbar, halting Phogat’s quest for glory.
Phogat now competed in the Kumite 1 League, an MMA promotion based in Mumbai.
Rajinder Singh Meena
Rajinder Singh Meena exploded onto the professional mixed martial arts scene in August 2009, fighting in the Full Contact Championship. Three straight wins saw him switch to the Super Fight League, where he won five of his six contests. Meena then headed to the ONE Championship, where, unfortunately, the step up in class did not go well.
Meena lost his first six fights between March 2015 and August 2017, although he did defeat Zehao Zhang in his penultimate fight. Another defeat, the eighth of his career, came in March 2019 in the Matrix Fight Night promotion, which looks to have called time on Meena’s career. However, he has shown dogged determination throughout his career, so it may not be over just yet.
The ascent of Indian fighters in the global MMA scene is a narrative of breaking stereotypes, challenging norms, and redefining the potential of athletes from the country in combat sports. Each of these fighters has contributed to the evolving landscape of MMA in India. Anshul Jubli’s recent UFC debut was a personal milestone and paved the way for future generations of Indian fighters.
Another Indian athlete has recently signed a UFC contract. Puja Tomar may only be 4 feet 9 inches tall and a tiny 115 pounds, but she is not known as “The Cyclone” for nothing. Tomar has a professional record of eight wins and four losses, although she has won five of her last six contests. Tomar should make her UFC debut in the not-too-distant future.
The future of Indian mixed martial arts looks bright, and it is only a matter of time before we see more fighters following in the footsteps of these pioneers.