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Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an amalgamation of relevant and effective techniques picked up from various disciplines across the world. The modern phenomenon of globalization has played a pivotal role in the emergence of MMA as one of the most exciting spectator and combat sport in recent times. Before the advent of television or more recently the Internet, it was difficult for martial artists from two separate corners of the world to study and learn from each other’s style. But now since the world is a smaller place, a lot of cross training has become possible.

Bruce Lee was perhaps one of the earliest and the most glamorous exponents of Mixed Martial Arts. Originally a Wing-chun practitioner under the infamous Ip Man, he was greatly influenced by fencing, which made him adopt a predominantly strong hand forward stance in Jeet-Kun-Do. He also began incorporating various locks and holds into his repertoire showcasing an arm bar for the first time in his movie ‘Enter the Dragon’. If not for his premature death one can only speculate what an impact he would have been in today’s genre of Mixed Martial Arts.

Modern day MMA competitions can draw their roots from ‘Vale Tudo’ tournaments in Brazil . The first mention of Vale Tudo (which literally translates to ‘anything goes’) can be found as early as the early 20th century, as fighting sideshows that became popular in Brazilian carnivals and festivals.

UFC 1 in the United States was essentially a Vale Tudo tournament hosted by the Gracie Family to showcase Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as the most superior martial art. It was through the efforts of UFC in America and other such promotions like PrideFC in Japan that boosted MMA into more mainstream culture with the introduction of weight classes and a set of rules that made the sport less brutal.

Gracie Family
Image source: rogergracie.com

Watching the few available videos of these early day productions of Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, you could notice how one-dimensional each fighter was. Through the years fighters like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddel started showcasing how far the sport had evolved in such a short time. Randy Couture mixed up dirty boxing to complement his wrestling pedigree, while Chuck Liddel used his wrestling base to prevent his opponents from taking him down and kept the fight standing where he was strongest. The term ‘sprawl and brawl’  was coined for him.

Fedor Emelienenko - the PrideFC heavyweight champion (and arguably the greatest ever exponent of MMA) - using his sambo background was exceptional wherever the fight went. But most fighters in that era were still predominantly stronger in one discipline. This formula held through for the next generation of fighters that began to make a name for themselves. George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva both preferred the fight to be in their realm of expertise. Finally, we make our way to the current stable of fighters. Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Cain Velasquez, Ronda Rousy: all champions that dominate fights wherever they go.

The entire evolution of the sport can be witnessed if you put each of these fighters under the microscope. Going back to their early fights you can see each of them evolving from fighters that were exceptional in only one discipline to the complete fighters they are today. Each and every one of them transitioned from a different background into Mixed Martial Arts and only then started cross training. Ronda Rousy an Olympic bronze medalist in Judo won her first 10 bouts by arm-bar. But lately she’s been dominating fighters standing too.

That’s evolution in a nutshell.

The next breed of fighters will be those that have begun training in Mixed Martial Arts from the get go. Nine year-old kids that walk into the gym and train in all aspects of martial arts, be it striking wrestling or submissions. They will walk into the cage from the get go as Mixed Martial Artists. And I would like to be bold in my predictions that the future generation of champions will be those that don’t adhere to certain styles or rigid stances. They will switch and flow and be confident enough to do whatever their bodies tell them to do during a fight. Connor McGreggor jumps into my head here. It might have been a little early to push him into the limelight right now, especially against Jose Aldo but there will come a time when his continuous evolution will make him one of the deadliest fighters to ever grace the cage. As spectators of the ultimate form of combat, the future of the sport promises some exciting times ahead for us.


MMA Nagaland

Coming to India, we are still in the nascent stages of Mixed Martial Arts. Our fighters, however skilled, still have a preferred style and if taken away from it we lose our confidence. This is where I would like to introduce YoddhaFC (Yoddha means warrior in Sanskrit). Like any sport, one requires an athlete to rise through the ranks and slowly become more comfortable with competition. And that requires a concentration of effort and resources at grass root levels through amateur competition.

Whether it is Cricket in India, Football in Europe and South America or even niche sports like Ice Hockey in Canada and American Football in America, infrastructure is built from the youngest of ages. Talent is scouted through school and club competition. The same holds true for Mixed Martial Arts in India. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to follow an existing framework with the minor calibrations in India. One cannot expect to walk into a gym today and come out a champion tomorrow. Greatness is a lot of small things done greatly, day in and day out. That is what YoddhaFC aims to provide, an amateur platform where the champions of tomorrow can develop their skills and gradually progress to become world-class MMA athletes. Yoddha Fighting Championship (YFC) is the brainchild of Team Relentless, which comprises of Jitendra Khare, Chaintanya Gavali, Sushovan Ghosh, Vicky Tulasni and Khriemelie Metha (yours truly). 

After having traveled and competed in various competitions like Borneo Fighting Championship, OneFC, Ultimate Beatdown (Malaysia) and Super Fight League (India); the team had collectively garnered, firstly, a lot of experience on how to put an event together and secondly, the realization that it was time for the sport to begin its ascent in India. The pieces of the puzzle were already in sight. Our job was just to put it all together. 
Thus was born the idea for the YFC tryouts.

So far, the team has achieved phenomenal success in the form of three tryouts organized in Dimapur, Mumbai and Bangalore. Starting from the first tryout in Dimapur, Nagaland, the YFC juggernaut just kept gathering more and more momentum. Amateur fighters from all over the country travelled to participate in the Mumbai and Bangalore events. The first round of the tryouts will see the events visit Kolkata, Kerala (probably Cochin and a shout-out to my man Joefil Lal) and Odisha.  
Continue reading about the YFC Dimapur Journey or check out The Combat Academy,  YFC Part I or YFC Part II.

Khriemelie Metha is the founder of the Combat Academy - the first Mixed Martial Arts academy in Nagaland. He is also a part of Team Relentless, organizer of the YFC.

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