Underground Blogger Harendra Kottyam, is the Senior Correspondent of The World of Martial Arts paper, Former Vice President of The International Combat Hapkido Federation, and author of the book “Sayings of Lord Siva”
For the past two months UFC has been beaming its fights into India, including live fights and also in HD on the Sony Six sports channel.
This is not the first time that UFC has been shown in India, some years ago The Ultimate Fighter was shown on the AXN channel. It got a mixed response and then was discontinued.
Last year and this year we were shown old fights from the Bellator Fighting Championships on the AXN channel, these were approximately 1 ½ to two years old and only Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez really impressed the viewers, the women fights were a novelty. .. Zoila "Warrior Princess" Gurgel was very impressive with her win over Megumi Fujii.
How has the audience in India taken to the UFC? The hardcore martial artists are enjoying every moment of it; the common public is not too impressed as they have been brought up on Bruce Lee movies, and expect all the fights to have aerial and spinning kicks and frankly the ground work looks like wild swinging to them. This is because there are no Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools presently operating here, and if there are they must be available to a select few, and therefore the intricacies of the ground work are only understood by the Judo and Jiu Jitsu practitioners and not to the common public.
However the UFC is doing a very good job in its coverage which also includes the training methods of the fighters, where the importance of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is clearly explained, and the slow motion replays from different angles are beginning to shed more light on the submission moves.
What surprised the audience the most was the program UFC Inside Access, where the personal lives of the UFC fight stars were shown. One episode showed the home and training schools of UFC champion Anderson Silva, whom we can related to because he came from humble beginnings and is still very humble. The high end cars and luxurious homes these superstars have was an eye opener to us, that martial artists who make it in the UFC have luxurious lives, which is accessible to only the high end business persons film stars, cricketers, and politicians here.
Presently the Sony six sports channel which beams the UFC programs are not available everywhere, and as it becomes more available, definitely more persons will view the UFC programs.
I spoke to Master Mohammed Sardar, and asked him his opinion about the UFC coverage in India.
Master Mohammed Sardar who is a post graduate from Mumbai University, has been teaching Tae Kwon Do since 1979, and later on Hapkido. He is also the editor of “The World of Martial Arts”, the largest circulating monthly martial arts newspaper in India, which has recently completed twenty years of publication. He has this to say about Mixed Martial Arts in India.
“The average Indian does not have the nature or physique to practice MMA. Indians being non violent by nature may also find it very aggressive and brutal. Most importantly the Indian student cannot afford the injuries which the practice of MMA brings. Also in India there are no world class training facilities or world class trainers in MMA which is available in other countries.
Mr. Mohammed Sardar, however, feels that MMA will reach a good TV audience in future when the present sports channel Sony six which presently beams the UFC fights becomes more available to more cable operators in India. MMA, in future, may have a good number of TV audiences but limited participation. However he feels it will not reach the popularity of other established martial arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do.
I would like to state that if Dana White wishes to reach a substantial viewing audience in India, he has to find a fighter who is an Indian or of Indian origin to fight in the UFC.
When the Great Khali won the WWE wrestling championship, it created a great interest in India, and he was greeted like a conquering hero when he arrived in India. This was the first time in recent memory an Indian had won a world pro wrestling title out of India.
Many movie and TV roles followed for the Great Khali, and he still has a large fan base in India, and the WWE has a large following of TV viewers, mostly kids.
Generations ago we did have the Great Gama become the world wrestling champion in Great Britain, and went on to remain undefeated in more that 5000 bouts, a feat that no one has ever come even half way to reaching. This was before wrestling matches became orchestrated events for entertainment.
Unfortunately the Great Gama is now forgotten in India, and only old timers can recollect some stories about him, like my late father did, who introduced me to his incredible exploits.
My late father also explained to me that unfortunately the Great Gama died in penury, in his old age a sad fate of many great Indian sportsmen, where presently cricket is the only major sports interest for TV viewers.
In conclusion I would like to add that Dana White has propagated realistic martial arts to more countries than any person has ever done before and is continuing to do so. I wish him continued success and thank him for bringing the UFC programs into India.