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City inspires Muay Thai world champ

Calcutta will be the headquarters for former Muay Thai world champion Hakan Ozan’s foray into a franchise of training centres across the country and south Asia.

Swede Hakan, who recently took over the reins of the Bengal Kickboxing Association and Mixed Martial Arts Association of Bengal, is set to launch Muay Thai institutes in several Indian cities and Saarc countries.

“When I first started free Muay Thai lessons out of my living room in Calcutta in April, I was surprised by how quickly word got around. Many people contacted me, some even landed up at my doorstep so they could find out more. That was an indicator of bigger things to come,” said Hakan, who when not training fighters, runs a social media venture.

Those bigger things are now taking shape with the launch of Supremacy martial arts and fitness institutes across India.

“Within two months, we hope to have 13-19 franchisees functional in metro and satellite cities. In India, contact sports are limited to boxing and wrestling, so our main initiative is to create a buzz around the sport, enter schools and make heroes. Competitions like the Super Fight League (SFL, started in 2011 by Sanjay Dutt and Raj Kundra) are already popular,” said Shanker Kaul, CEO, Supremacy (India).

So how will these institutes function?

“We will provide head instructors, who will come over from Thailand to each institute. They will train beginners for around three-four sessions a week and after 45 days, 10-12 sessions a week. The morning curriculum could be something like running to increase stamina while the evening lesson could pack in kicking pads and sparring, for instance,” said Hakan, who is backed by 20 years of experience as a martial arts instructor.

What will follow eventually is the Supremacy League, a fighting series for professionals.

“Of every 100 members who join, around 80 enrol for fitness, 10 become instructors and 10 eventually get into professional fighting,” Kaul said.

“That’s when heroes are created and people come to watch. Every sport needs heroes,” added Hakan, also the president of the Swedish Kickboxing Federation.

There is big money to be made in fighting. Even someone with “low market value” can earn Rs 20,000-25,000 a fight while a top-grade fighter stands to make around Rs 1 lakh. An international name could draw Rs 5-15 lakh.

The 41-year-old Swede’s plans are as solid as his muscles. “We are also in talks with schools to introduce Muay Thai and martial arts. They have the space required for a boxing ring and junior championships will create the next generation of fighters. It’s always good to start young — by the time you are 18, you could be a world champ!” said Hakan with a smile.

With kickboxing and Muay Thai pushing to enter the next Olympics, there couldn’t be a better time to join Hakan.

Write to the Muay Thai world champion at supremacy.kolkata@gmail.com