PUNE In the current cage scenario of mixed martial arts, the ground and pound for fighters often begins before s/he can ever get in the arena.

As, MMA evolves to conquer the world of combat sports, India, in true sleeping giant mode is only just coming to the party.

That party will feature a blow-out round of bouts in Bahrain on November 7 – 2019 IMMAF-WMMA World Championships. Ripped for success at the event is a Pune boy, whose personal ground and pound story goes all the way back to his childhood.

Meet Pune’s 20-year-old mixed martial artiste (MMA) exponent, Karan Chauhan. If you follow the sport in India, you might know him from the two first-round knockouts he inflicted on opponents in the Amateur Underground Fight Nights; two back to back fights, i.e.

Training for the Bahrain event in Bengaluru, Chauhan, prefers to scale back the clock to when every fight he picked, in and outside the ring, he lost.

“I was a victim of bullying and ragging and so to defend myself, began boxing at the age of 10,” says Chauhan, adding, “I took part in school competitions and my very first boxing bout was, coincidentally, against one of the guys who bullied me.”

Chauhan knocked his opponent out in the first round. A theme that, first round knockouts.

It was not until the age of 17, that Chauhan discovered MMA. “Until then, all my training was about boosting my self-esteem and confidence,” he says.

Under the guidance of Ismaile Haji, at the Ismaile Haji Combat Club in Pune, Chauhan commenced his MMA training.

“I lost my first two bouts, which I fought at 17,” says Chauhan.

Then, in January 2019, his form turned.

In April, he took part in an Amateur Underground Fight Night and ended up winning the tournament.

Chauhan, who turns 21 a day before the tournament, caught the eye of president of MMA India, Sharif Bapu, during his bouts in the Amateur Underground Fight Nights.

His excellent run of form ensured that he went from being un-ranked to No 4 in the MMA India Featherweight Rankings.

Winning more bouts, Chauhan reached the top of the charts right before he was drafted to the Indian National MMA Team for the upcoming MMA World Championships in Bahrain.

“In the last 10 years, India has made leaps and bounds in the sport of MMA. Athletes and trainers have travelled abroad to learn and have imparted that knowledge here when they coach their students. Hence, the quality of training has drastically improved since the past seven years. The coaching now is extremely refined and has a very mature and sensible approach as opposed to the previous ‘Go hard or go home’ approach that was in play back in the day,” says Chauhan.

Nineteen Indians – 11 fighters, four referees, three coaches and a time-keeper, that’s the tri-colour contingent for the Bahrain from November 9.

When asked why he switched over to MMA, Chauhan responded, “I realised that MMA was a better form of self-defence. Boxing included punching and shielding, while MMA was a mixture of everything. It was simply more effective.”

First Published:
Oct 27, 2019 15:56 IST

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