The octagon has landed in Darjeeling, bringing to the region one of the most popular and fastest-growing sports, mixed martial arts, that it could watch only on TV so far.
Three friends from Darjeeling — Ravi Arora, Roden Sherpa and Rajiv Khati — will organise the Darjeeling Cage Warriors, a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight, at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club on Saturday.
Mixed martial arts allows both striking and grappling and combines techniques from various combat sports.
Roden learnt the sport while studying in Australia. Rajiv, now settled in Delhi, has won international titles in MMA.
“A total of 20 fighters from across India, from Mumbai to Bangalore, Hyderabad to Arunachal Pradesh, will be participating. We also have fighters from Nepal,” Arora said.
Mixed martial arts began gaining popularity as a sport from the mid-1990s and is rapidly making money. The fights are held inside a ring called the octagon which, unlike traditional boxing, protects the fighters from falling off the ring.
“Our youths are interested in the sport but they have never seen live matches,” Roden said. “We believe if the youths watch live matches, their perspective will change. It is not just about fighting, it’s a sport one has to learn and train in.”
The amateur fights will last three rounds, each of three minutes, while the professionals will fight five rounds, each of five minutes. A cash prize will be given to the winner of each fight -- Rs 50,000 per win for a professional fighter and Rs 15,000 a win for an amateur.
The event will provide space to local fighters, all of whom had to learn the sport outside, too. “The Darjeeling fighters are doing good. One of the fighters from Darjeeling, Akrit Kanal, has started winning tournaments outside the region,” Arora said.
Rajiv, who trains MMA fighters in Delhi, said: “We want to direct the local youths to the national stream. There’s a lot of money in this sport and we want to help them grow.”
The event has recognition from the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts India (Gamma-India), which regulates MMA fights in India.