Bollywood launch mixed martial arts league

Mumbai: Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt has joined hands with businessman Raj Kundra to launch a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting league called SFL.

The first `Super Fight League` (SFL) event, being promoted by Dutt and Kundra`s company Super Fight Promotions, will be held in Mumbai on March 11, followed by Chandigarh (April 7) and New Delhi (May 6).

Promising thorough sportainment, each fight night is expected to have a minimum of seven fights, besides a Bollywood celebrity act and an after party for VIP ticket holders, organisers said.

The first fight in Mumbai will see six Indian fighters in various weight categories, taking on six MMA fighters, which would be followed by the main event - a super heavy duel between United Kingdom`s James Thompson and Bob Sapp of US.

The fighters will go at each other for three five-minute rounds in which the judges would decide who won 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.

"The mixed martial arts industry is valued at USD two billion in America alone. It is the fastest growing sport. The unpredictability of the sport is what makes it attractive," said Kundra, who also owns IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals along with actress-wife Shilpa Shetty, at a press conference here today.

"MMA is a full combat sport comprising 36 different styles of fighting including karate, judo and kung-fu. We have (over 50) fighters from all around the world training for the past six months (for the league). They will also train fighters in the country," he said.

Commenting on the revenue stream, Kundra said, "The revenue would be through advertising and sponsorship-based funding. We have link-ups with various websites and also TV deals. But we are holding them back. We would make an announcement shortly."

On the occasion, Dutt said, "Martial arts began in India and left the country. We are trying to bring them back."

"We have a camp in Nashik where the Indian fighters are being trained. Our dream is that fighters from our country should be known across the world."

Dutt asserted that the fights in the league would be real and not staged.

SFL Chief Executive Officer Ken Pavia said though there are chances of injury in the sport, we have rules in place to ensure that fighters are not fatally wounded.

"MMA is not human-cockfighting. Over 20 years, various rules have been made in America to ensure the safety of athletes."

SFL Chief Operating Officer Daniel Isaac, who is training fighters from the country, said the league was a great opportunity for the Indian fighters.

"We are signing exclusive fighters from across the world. They already have 10-15 years of experience. Indian fighters have already started training at the grassroots. We have picked them from various 'akharas' (wrestling arena) and put them in our exclusive gyms.

"There will be open trials in Punjab and Haryana. MMA is a great opportunity for Indian athletes who have great ability," Isaac added.