SFL to make its India debut tomorrow

Mumbai: India`s first professionally organised mixed martial arts fighting league, the Super Fight League (SFL), promoted by Bollywood megastar Sanjay Dutt and NRI businessman Raj Kundra, will get going on Sunday.

Kundra, husband of actress Shilpa Shetty and owner of Rajasthan`s IPL team, has got together with Dutt to give Indian mixed martial artists a platform to compete along with talented fighters from different parts of the world.

Tomorrow`s event here, will be followed by events in Chandigarh (April 7) and New Delhi (May 6). Based on SFL rules adopted across the United States and other countries that regulate martial arts, SFL fights are contested over three five-minute rounds. It covers six weight classes from feather to heavyweight.

Kundra said India is an action-hungry country and this prompted him to launch the sport here.

He said there was huge potential in India for mixed martial arts, which is a full combat sport comprising 36 different styles of fighting including karate, judo and kung-fu.

"There is so much potential. There are so many fighters from every corner of India that I can produce and why not put them onto a platform so that one day they become well known internationally as well," he said.

He said he wants to inject more Indian blood into the event, especially in the women`s category.

"I am waiting to introduce Indian female fighters, whom I am currently training. I have four of them at the camp at the moment and I will unveil them very soon," Kundra said.

The Indian fighters are being trained at a camp in Nashik. At present Ukrainian Lena and Serbian Sanja are the two women athletes in the sporting event.

The inaugural event in Mumbai will see five Indian fighters in various weight categories, taking on five mixed martial arts fighters, which would be followed by the main event -- a super heavy duel between United Kingdom`s James Thompson and Bob Sapp of the United States.

Kundra, in a lighter vein, said the sport is organised street fight with two well-trained athletes pitted against each other.

The league has signed up over 50 international fighters who will also train players in the country, Kundra said and added that they have been signing new athletes every month.

"We keep signing players who have potential. Every month we keep signing 4-5 players. So we will keep growing this," he said.

The mixed martial arts industry is valued at USD 2.2 billion in the US and is the fastest growing sport there. "It`s a sport that has taken over boxing, wrestling, taekwando, judo. This decides who the best fighter is in the world than any other sport," Kundra said.

Asked if people would perceive this to be a stage-managed event like wrestling, he said, "We have to make it change because that`s the only way we can get the market. If people think we are staged then it is not going to do well. But I think the audience when they come and see the first punch in the face, they are going to realise that it is not staged."

Kundra said he would invest Rs 100 crore over the next three years in the venture.

The Super Fight League has tied up with Google`s popular video sharing website YouTube and Viacom 18`s Colors.

"Youtube is watched all over the world and with most of the athletes coming from around the world we expect to get a lot of hits. In future we plan to make it paid view with India being free online and the rest of the world paying for it," he said.

After the first three events, there will be a two month break before resuming in other cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

The grand finale will be held in December with the two best in every weight category vying for championship belt. The fighters will go at each other for three five-minute rounds in which the judges would decide the winner if neither of them is knocked out or has `tapped out` (quits). It would be the referee`s job to stop a fight if one of the fighters is unable to defend himself.


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