Ever walked into a room full of extremely muscular bodybuilders, all oiled up and wearing nothing but teeny-weeny g-strings? Yeah, gives you an inferiority complex huh? That's what I had to go through yesterday at the "Body Power Expo India 2015" held at Bombay Exhibition Centre, Goregaon East.
Most of the testosterone pumped up dudes had biceps bigger than my
five four limbs combined, with veins running around them the size of my finger. Even the women wore skimpy two-piece outfit, and they didn't seem to have a least bit of fat anywhere on their body - Tight ass, muscular arms, well toned extremely chiselled abs, and usually very small breasts.
But I wasn't at the Expo for the bodies. I was there to watch a section of the Expo dedicated to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) where a contingent of young Mizo fighters had flown down to Mumbai, led by none other than the living legend - Samuel Lalrozama.
Anybody who's following MMA in India would have heard of Samuel. He's the first ever Indian to win a medal in an International Kickboxing competition for India under the prestigious WFK International body. He became a Muay Thai pro fighter, achieved black belts in eight different martial arts disciplines, appointed as National coach, followed by National referee & judge. He was inducted in to the martial Arts 'Hall of Fame' in the year 2014 by the International Jeet Kune Do Federation & Martial Arts Association - International. He is one amongst the few Indian MMA referee qualified and certified to referee an International MMA tournament and can be rightly called the second most experienced MMA referee in India, after Ryan Thorpe. Currently, he's training MMA fighters and many of his students have done him proud. (Oh apart from all that, he's also an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, regularly writes articles related to various social issues for different Mizo magazines, and has authored and co-authored two books. And did I not mention he's still single? Ladies? *wink wink*).
When I heard that he's in Mumbai, I immediately booked an appointment with him. Back when we used to study together in Coimbatore, he was this really shy, soft-spoken and innocent skinny kid. I would have never guessed he would become a weapon of mass destruction.
On 21st March (Saturday), the competition started. But Samuel told me Saturday's MMA events were submission grappling and Sports MMA (a new concept introduced for youths below 18 years), which were only about grappling and submission (meaning no actual force contact or fight, its more about strength, endurance and tactic) and that I might not be interested. He was right :D
Four Mizos took part in the submission grappling and Sports MMA events and all four made it to the semi-final rounds, winning one silver and three bronze. Yaaaay. Later in the night, I finally got to meet him. We decided to go to Powai since his hotel was nearby. Chilli's was packed unfortunately, since it was a Saturday night, so we went to this North Indian restaurant called "No. 101" on Hiranandani Business Park.
We had a long good talk, catching up on what's going on with our lives. Samu told me about all the struggles he is currently facing when it comes to financial funding. I assumed that since the Mizo fighters were representing Mizoram, the state Government must be funding their entire journey and stay, like they must be getting some amount of money as travel allowance, daily stipend, match fee etc etc.
I was completely wrong!
Our state government cannot fund Mizo MMA fighters even when they're representing Mizoram at National level tournaments because it is not yet an affiliated game under the Mizoram State Sports Council! Dayyymmm that sucks.
Hence, a few of these Mizo fighters use their own money, while Samu pays the rest from his own pocket! Man that is one huge dedication. He's not just running a training school and training people, but financing them as well. And in return he gets nothing, except for the satisfaction that he has delivered a person to his destination. I really hope something is done to make sure upcoming sports and young athletes with so much talent and potential get more grassroots development within our own state. Otherwise people are just going to keep migrating outside. A couple of Mizo MMA fighters are already representing Karnataka as of today.
After a couple of more discussions over butter naan and chicken tikka masala, it was time to go home since the next day's main events start at 11 AM.
The next day, Sunday 22nd March 2015, was the day we were all waiting for. Four Mizo fighters were scheduled to fight - Two in the amateur category, and two in the professional (SFL - Super Fight League) category.
Let me just point out here quickly that though I appreciate the SFL for all they've done with the MMA, when it comes to watching an MMA match live, the best time I've ever had was the one conducted by FCC (Full Contact Championship), which is a different franchise from SFL. Blog - My experience at Full Contact Championship. Of course SFL is more professional, classier, has more celebrity power, glamour, coverage etc etc, but I loved the FCC because it was so... raw and underground'ish. We could stand there right next to the freaking ring, banging on the mat/canvas with one hand while clutching a can of beer with the other and shouting out all sorts of expletives. The fighters walked right next by us, shoulder to shoulder. All that is not possible in the SFL.
Ok coming back to the MMA Championship, I reached the venue (Bombay Exhibition Centre) a bit late, but luckily, none of the Mizos had their match yet. I called up Samu from the gate and he sent one of the Mizo Pro fighters "Tekashi" to get me at the gate. He handed me a free pass (meaning I didn't have to pay the Rs. 1200/- entry fee) and I followed him inside.
There were a couple of other fighters battling it out inside the MMA cage, across different weight categories - bantam weight, feather weight, light weight, heavy weight and so on.
All those fights were in the amateur category, so some of the fights were not very interesting.
A little bit further from the MMA section, was the "Fitness Model Search" stage, where participants walked the ramp one after the other and showed off their bodies and muscles while trying to stay in rhythm with the music blasting from the speakers. They played mainly dubstep.
And of course the size of the crowd and number of people taking photos or videos with their mobile phones quadrupled whenever the participant was a woman :D I too managed to take 3 quick photos since everybody around me were doing it, though it was not my proudest moment. I kept convincing myself, "Kima, it's for your blog, it's for your blog."
Back at the other side, I met Ngurlianzuala Sailo, who's from Mizoram Police. He wanted to further his career with Mizoram Police by winning a medal at the Light Heavy weight category.
I must say, he's a really funny and awesome guy, cracking jokes and laughing to each and everything.
I met up with another familiar face - Manoa (Dengthanchhunga) who was all pumped up for his match. He was participating in the featherweight category of the amateur division, and unlike the Pro division where participants were fighting just one opponent each, the amateur division had a knockout structure, so they had to fight multiple times till the Final round if they kept winning.
Manoa said he was ready for that.
There was still an hour or two before the first Mizo match (Manoa), so I decided to roam around the EXPO for a while.
The place was filled with Gym and fitness freak stuff. There was this equipment, that equipment, protein enhancement powder, nutrient supplement solution, this celebrity, that celebrity, and everybody looked so fit and healthy. I had to walk around the entire ground sucking in my stomach.
There were also a lot of stalls where gym instructors (?) were on stage doing a dance like workout routine, and any audience could join them and dance to the rhythm of the music (like those Zoomba fitness dance videos) following the instructor's steps. There were so many different workout dances everywhere with different fitness/dance instructors that while I was walking, I happened to trip a bit and stumbled. The folks around me immediately thought I was an instructor doing a new step and they too all surrounded me and did an act of tripping. Then they looked at me awaiting my next move. I tried to tell them I was merely a visitor but unfortunately I had to sneeze. They too all faked a sneeze and then waited for my next instruction again. And then I farted and that was when they realized I was not an instructor :P
One stall was even conducting push-up competitions for the audience, and whoever cleared the test won something.
Other stalls were throwing out freebies to the audience and people were fighting with each other to grab those items.
And then there was this dude. I don't mean to offend anyone, but there was a loooooong line of people waiting to get his autograph or have a photograph taken with him and I had absolutely no clue who he was.
I seriously didn't know who he was. Former Mister World? Mister Universe? World's Strongest Man competition winner? Olympic weight lifting champ? No idea at all, after all, I don't watch much of these muscle related shows. The really funny thing was, Samu and I went to pee, and he was right there inside the men's loo peeing too, with his "bodyguards" surrounding his urinal cubicle, lolz. And once he was done peeing, around 10 bodyguards surrounded him forming a human chain so others couldn't ask him for an autograph.
As he and his entourage walked past us, I asked one dude who was desperately trying to take his photo who that man was, and he gave me this exasperated blasphemous look of disbelief.
"That is Ronnie Coleman!"
I was like, "Ronnie who?"
And then his face grew all red and breathing became harder, "Ronnie Coleman! You don't know Ronnie Coleman? Oh My God! Eight times Mr. Olympia! Seriously dude, if you don't know him, what are you even doing here?"
"Oh I'm sorry, I was just looking around, I'm actually not into body building, I'm from the Mixed Martial Arts section over there."
The moment I said that, his face grew pale and I could sense his voice trembling a bit, "Oh shit, oh shit, I didn't mean to shout like that, I'm so sorry. So urrrm... when is your match and who are you fighting against?"
"Around 6 in the evening dude. Against last year's champ." I replied with ease as I watched him scurry away from me.
Soon I headed back to the MMA section. Mano's first fight (quarter finals) was about to start. Here are a few photos I took of his fight. He won in the second round on the basis of TKO (technical knock out).
On his next round, the semi final, I was able to take only this photo, before the fight started.
By the time I went to the ring side to take better photos and videos, Manoa had already won. Lolz, he knocked out his opponent in less than 20 seconds of the first round! :D
And just like that, he was through to the Finals. Here are some photos of the Final round -
Manoa and his opponent fought all
three rounds (EDIT: Two rounds. The Amateur section had a maximum round of only two. Thanx to Njldst for pointing this out in the comment section). It was an evenly matched fight, though I still believed Manoa performed better. At the end of three rounds two rounds, the judges gave his opponent a few more points. You can watch some of the video clips of his fights here and let me know who fought better. I've put an audio over it because the sound wasn't clear as all the other stalls near the ring were blasting their respective music.
After the tiring match, we all congratulated Manoa anyway for having reached so far. Pu Zaia, our Mizoram House Deputy Resident Commissioner was requested to come inside the ring to hand over the runner's up trophy to Manoa. A fitting tribute indeed. And then he went to rest.
The person who beat Manoa had much more experience than him, and he too said he was really impressed with his fight. They posed for a few photos after their match.
And then it was lunch time.
I just wanna mention that another Mizo fighter Lalrinawma had to forfeit his fight because he injured his hand the previous day while participating in the submission grappling event. Poor guy had a cast on his hand and he kept regretting because he was very confident of winning in his category. I really admired Awma because not only is he an MMA enthusiast but he was also doing his BCA studies at the same time, while working on his family handloom business part-time! Wow, talk about multi-tasking and dedication!
After lunch, Ngurlianzuala was supposed to have his match in the amateur category, followed by the Pro category. But since the organizers ran behind schedule, the remaining amateur events were postponed after the Pro events, because, you know, the Bollywood stars were coming :P
Zorammawia (Tekashi) and Zorinmawia (Xico) started preparing. I too was kicked out from ringside as only designated people or VIPs could be around that area.
Soon, Raj Kundra and his entourage arrived, and more and more beautifully clad VIPs filled the stand. The MC announced the opening ceremony of SFL-39. There was also one martial artist dressed in samurai attire showing off his sword mastery inside the cage.
Both bout 1 and bout 2 of SFL 39 were exciting. Lots of punches and kicks and damages and blood spilled. Winners of both bouts won by TKO - Dhruv Chaudhary defeated Navjot Chahal in the second round, and Govind Singh decimated Mohd. Asgar in the first round itself. Govind Singh was representing the state of Uttarakhand, but he has a very Northeastern looking facial feature, I won't be surprised if he's actually a Manipuri Singh.
Then came the much awaited bout 3. The MC really hyped up his introduction of Tekashi. The very few Mizos around the ring were "wooooooooooooo"ing. His opponent Vikas Singh was of a similar height but much more muscular and bigger in mass, and came from a wrestling background.
With much apprehension around the ring, the referee started the match.
And then the mistake happened.
As the fight started, both fighters leaned forward to fist-bump each other. After the fist-bump, Tekashi let his guard down, which proved to be a fatal mistake. Vikas attacked immediately, catching Tekashi off guard. He was on the defensive right from the start, and within minutes Vikas had him in a good position of submission, an RNC (Rear Naked Choke) to be precise... and Tekashi had no other option but to tap out. Everybody watching the match was shocked. After all the hype and build-up, the match was over in a matter of seconds.
My heart cried out to Tekashi who felt so bad for having disappointed his supporters. It must have been a really humiliating moment for him. His opponent even consoled him before the award ceremony.
Bout 4 was Zorinmawia's turn. This time, the MC played down a bit on introducing him, possibly because of what we witnessed previously. His opponent was a Muai Thai champ who even defeated the previous winner of SFL in a Muai Thai competition!
I wasn't able to take good photos or videos because as I mentioned earlier, I got kicked off from ringside and was standing behind the barricades.
Zorinmawia kept up a pretty big fight, and was dominating most of the time. The fight went till round 3, and the three judges' total score gave his opponent a small edge. Zorin too couldn't believe it when the winner was announced, but Samu rushed in and reminded him to be professional and respect the judges' decision. But many of us on the barricade (I'm talking about the non-Mizo spectators around me) too said Zorin deserved more points.
Anyhoo, here is the only clear video clip I was able to take.
There were a few more SFL bouts, but since I had to leave early this morning for Pune, I decided to call it a day and went home. Wish I could have spent more time with the boys. But overall, I'm trully impressed with their performance, and mighty damn proud of them. Hoping to see more success in the near future, and hope our state government treat this sports more seriously.
Cheers to you all.