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Posted by: NeBuzz Uploaded: 03-Jun-15

Having formulated the concept of Yoddha Fighting Championship (YFC), the idea of the first-ever amateur MMA tryouts had been incubating for quite some time, but the deadlines kept extending due to the reluctance of sponsors. An August event became a September event. A September event became an October one, so on and so forth. 

I had always been rooting for an YFC show here in Nagaland and had made up my mind that my job was to basically convince everybody that Nagaland could host the first try-out. So after many a relentless pitch, the core members of Team Relentless decided to make the trip to Nagaland and meet me here so we could take a collective decision on how to move things forward. 

We went around scouting possible venue spots and meeting various people that would help put this show together. Long story short at the end of the three days everyone was quite confident that we could pull off our show here in Nagaland.  Sponsors were informed, dates were put up on our website, personal calls were made to gyms across India. The initial feedback was very positive. Everyone sounded most keen on being part of our endeavor. 

But as the dates got closer a lot of competitors started backing out. In hindsight, I suppose not many people believed we could pull this off. Minus our experience through competition, we were quite untested in the realm of Mixed Martial Arts promotion. 

Enter Design Stash, who came on as Media partners and proved to be one hell of an asset. Especially Inoto Nawang Khulu, who made it his personal mission to create content and publicity for the event. We decided to make promotional content concentrating on the fighters from my gym, The Combat Academy (since the first show was in the North-east). The promotional framework was later replicated for the events in the other cities. 

We started posting the videos, which began garnering a lot of interest on social media. Training for the fighters from The Combat Academy began intensifying, we partnered up with Anytime Fitness to work on our cardio and strength conditioning in the mornings, while evenings would be our technique work out. Fighters were traveling in from Mumbai and Assam to compete.

To be honest we had no clue how the show would turn out. We spent the night before the event running around setting up the cage and dealing with a plethora of small problems. I suppose hindrances like these are part and parcel of any event and we learnt from these small mistakes, which ultimately made our following shows much smoother.

A case in point; we spent a good two hours of the night traveling to and fro the train station waiting for our cage mats to arrive from Delhi (The Brahmaputra Express is the worst train ever). Ultimately we couldn’t get the mats not because it wasn’t delivered but because the bogey door had been jammed shut and we couldn’t open it before it moved out for the next stop. So disaster management time, we decided to pick up the mats at our gym cut it up and hope for the best. 

This is where I introduce God’s gift to us - David - a handyman that helped us put up the cage and do any small thing that was required. While all of us sat around staring at the cage deciding how the mats should be cut up to fit the cage. David quietly picked up his tools and started cutting up the mats. No matter how badly we tried screwing things up David was there to ‘damage control’.  

Yoddha Fighting Championship MMA Nagaland

The morning of the show was when we finally managed to set up our cage. The lights, cameras, and seating were all set. All that was left was the audience. It was time for the show to get on the road. We had nice guys fighting from The Combat Academy so a lot of my time was spend cornering the fighters. I didn’t get much time to pay attention to the crowd. It was only at the end of the second fight where Hemavi Aye, the local lad, won his bout that I started noticing the noise, and man was it loud. We had made accommodations for around 400 guests. But by the end of the night we had people standing on the chairs, people standing at the back of the hall, people looking in from the outside. We must have had around 1000 spectators, which was amazing considering we felt we would be lucky with a turnout of 400. The turnout was phenomenal. Except for Susovan’s fight in OneFC, we had never encountered such a large crowd in a MMA event. After the event we all sat down and promised ourselves that Nagaland is definitely happening again.

Infocus Management with their walky-talkies made it the smoothest show ever (the only hassle we got from them was getting reprimanded to stop fighter celebrations and get them to the doctors ASAP, which was after all their job). 

From a technical aspect the fights left a lot wanting, but the idea of the event was always for amateur fighters to test their skills. What makes a good fight phenomenal is not the technique displayed but the emotions the fight evokes. And on that night, Nagaland was electric. Shantanu vs Kenie was full heart and grit. You could see that Shantanu was the more technical fighter on the ground but Kenie refused to tap out and kept relentlessly attacking Shantanu which led to the night’s best fight. The next day Kenie’s photo made the papers. His face red because of the choke, but his eyes were bright and his jaw was clenched - a photo which will always epitomize our efforts. We may not be the best today but we will not go into that night quietly and one day it will be our time to shine.

The talent that the Naga boys showed surprised many, including my coaches and peers. Chaitanya told me later that they have something that one can’t teach and that is heart. The will to never give up, compliments or no I am proud to be associated with this bunch of crazy-ass push-up loving jokers that I call teammates.

Khriemelie Mehta 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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