Article appears courtesy of South East Asian MMA, www.seamma.com
Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport on the planet and as global interest in the sport grows fighters are emerging from an increasingly diverse range of nations and backgrounds. MMA has traditionally been popular in Japan and South Korea but its influence is starting to spread all across Asia.
The UFC has largely been responsible for inspiring this MMA revolution. Countries do not come much further from the UFC’s spiritual home of Las Vegas, either geographically or socially, than India but this nation is the latest in a long line of Asian countries to start to show an interest in this fledgling sport.
At the forefront of Indian MMA stands one man, India’s leading fighter Alan ‘The Bull’ Fenandes. He took part in his first ever MMA fight back in 2004 but after years of participating in obscure shows he is finally ready to step into the limelight next month.
Fernandes is scheduled to face Phuket based American veteran Ray Elbe in a Welterweight Title fight at Martial Combat 6 next month. Martial Combat is South East Asia’s biggest MMA promotions and will be screened to over 20 Asian countries, including India, by ESPN Star Sports.
The 32 year old fighter is relishing the opportunity to represent his country on the international stage,
‘We Indians are very passionate about our sporting heritage. It is my honor to represent the great nation of India and I take a lot of personal pride in being the number one MMA fighter of India. I see 15th July as a historic day for Indian MMA as it will have its first world champion, he said.
A sizeable Indian contingent is expected at the Sentosa Resorts World to witness Fenandes in action. Indians have been coming to Singapore for years mainly to work in the construction industry. Fernandes, who is renowned for his powerful punches, will have destruction on his mind when he steps into the cage to face Elbe,
‘Since I was young I have known that fighting for a living is what I wanted to. I enjoy slamming people and punching them in the face and I still enjoy dominating opponents just as I did in my first fight,’ he said.
If he can see off the challenge of the experienced American veteran it will be the crowning achievement in a career which began over 15 years ago,
‘I was 15 when I started learning Kushti (Indian wrestling). I was really fascinated by the fact that by learning this art a person could actually overpower an opponent of equal or bigger size and control them. I also wanted to be the toughest kid on the block and hence took to it very naturally,’ he said.
Fenandes was one of the first generation of fighters to be introduced to mixed martial arts by the UFC. He recalls seeing UFC 1 back in 1993 and feels from that moment onwards he was destined to be a mixed martial artist. He had to wait another decade to make his MMA debut in England in 2004 and he has gone on to amass an overall record of ten wins and two losses. There is footage on youtube of Fenandes taking part in some extremely primitive contests but he believes his game has become much more sophisticated in recent years.
He is based at India’s premier mixed martial arts facility, Tigers Gym, located just outside his hometown of Mumbai. Founded by Indian MMA pioneer and former world kickboxing champion Daniel Isaac Tigers Gym is fast establishing a reputation as India’s leading MMA camp and Fenandes is emphatic in his belief that it is giving him the best possible preparation for his upcoming title fight,
‘I train here because this is the only genuine MMA training centre in India. Tigers gym is home to the toughest and the best MMA fighters in the country. Daniel (Isaac) has formed and led this only professional team of MMA fighters in India. He has handpicked fighters from various backgrounds such as wrestling and boxing and has ensured that these fighters learn all aspects of MMA,’ he said.
The results of this process were displayed for all to see in May when Fenandes’ training partner Bhupesh Kamble made a serious statement of intent by knocking out Englishman Neil Mellor in the first round of their fight at Martial Combat 1. Another of Fenandes’ team mates, Abhijeet Petkar, was not so fortunate, losing by submission to Chinese fighter Zhang Jian Jun at Martial Combat 2 the following night.
Tigers Gym has evolved out of traditional martial arts and Fenandes and his team mates are never allowed to forget their roots,
‘Tigers Gym is unique in the sense that it incorporates the discipline of traditional styles with training in modern day fighting style. Respect towards the coach and among fellow fighters is of prime importance and I personally believe that this helps not only in team synergy but also in developing a symbiotic relationship between fighters,’ he said.
The camps founder, Daniel Isaac, is in a unique position to recognize both the strengths and limitations of traditional martial arts. Isaac learned his lesson the hard way when, having won a series of competitions for his kata, he entered a contact tournament,
‘I won my first district level kata competition and that made me think I was the best and that was my biggest mistake. I was part of the team which participated in the Indira Gandhi memorial Full contact Karate championships held at Pune in 1987. My opponent was much taller than me and he kicked me in the head with a spin heel kick and then ended the bout with a reverse sweep . I don’t remember what happened for the next 10 minutes as I went unconscious. That competition was the one which showed me where I stood and how much of training and focus I really required,’ he said.
\To his credit Isaac went away and learned from his mistakes and in 1993 he was crowned Flyweight World Kickboxing Champion. He believes that it is a misconception that mixed martial arts was invented by the UFC and recalls a similar style tournament taking place in India 15 years ago,
‘In 1985 the Federation of Oriental Martial Arts, the first governing body for Ishudo, organized the first ever ‘Freestyle No Rules Martial Arts Tournament’ in Bytco college Nasik Road . Almost every martial arts style was represented at this event and it was at that tournament that people got a taste of what a ‘no rules’ tournament actually is, Shito Ryu, Shorin Ryu, taekwondo, Goju-ryu and freestyle karate fighter from all over the country clashed against the Ishudo Fighters,’ he said.
Isaac has gone on record as saying that his student will knock Elbe out on July 15th. Doing so will be no easy task as although Elbe has never quite made it into the upper echelons he has been in there with the likes of Diego Sanchez and would have secured a spot on TUF 9 had he been able to get past the challenge of eventual finalist DeMarquez Johnson.
The fight with Elbe will probably be the toughest test of his career but Fernandes claims he is not intimidated by the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt,
‘While preparing for a fight I don’t think about my opponent’s credentials or preparations. I focus on what I need to do to get the job done from my end. I train three times a day, in the morning I do weights or functional training in the afternoon I do cardiovascular conditioning and in the evening I do skill training. I am not scared to fight Ray Elbe, I am excited,’ he said.
The ballroom at Resorts World Sentosa may only fit a few thousand people but the population of India is in excess of a billion. If Fernandes can prevail against Elbe at Martial Combat 6 he could help introduce MMA to an entire nation.
For more information visit: www.rwmartialcombat.com