All India Mixed Martial Arts Association core committee member and the face of Mizoram State Mixed Martial Arts Association, SAMUEL LALROZAMA HMAR, in an interview with Zoram Observer says that the Mizoram Fight League Season One — coming up in June last week — is an opportunity for the youth to take up a new career opportunity as he backs up Mizoram DGP Pu Thianghlima Pachuau’s statement that the sport could become “another source of employment”.
When is the MFL coming up and how are the preparations going on?
Mizoram Fight League (MFL) Season One will be starting in the last week of June 2017, and will continue till December 2017. This will be organized by the Mizoram State Mixed Martial Arts Association (MISMA), in collaboration with one of the biggest cable networks in the state – Zonet Cable Pvt. Ltd. We have started shooting promotional videos, covering the life and times of fighters and their teams/clubs. We had conducted three successful events last year – JSJ Fight League (JSL) 1,2 & 3; and this year we are upgrading ourselves with a much bigger league – The MFL.
We will make official announcements of the dates as soon as we get the official sanction from our parent body, which is the national organization – AIMMAA, India’s largest and oldest MMA organization. All big events of AIMMAA are hosted with prior approval of the Central sports ministry; so, similarly for our event too, as done before for our previous events, we again hope to get the state sports ministry’s approval for conducting the sport of MMA, from the sports angle, at no cost to the government.
Can you tell us your role in this game and your qualifications in MMA?
I am one of the working and core committee members of the national body – AIMMAA. And through AIMMAA I have gained immense experience from being a fighter, a coach and one of the most experienced MMA referee in South Asia. It’s been a privilege, by the grace of God, the organization, family and the Mizo people that I was the first Indian to officiate as a center referee at the IMMAF world championship during the UFC international fight week. I am also the technical chairman in MISMA.
I also planned to open an MMA and MuayThai training center at our house in Dawrpui, Aizawl from June 2017, which will also be the main headquarters of MISMA. We have good collaborations with companies like FitPro, Bangalore; USI Universal; Hyperion MMA and others. So, with the guidance of our young dynamic president Lalthakima and the whole MISMA team, I do hope that we can shape better fighters and officials, not only from Mizoram but from the whole of the North Eastern states of India, who can bring laurels to the nation.
What are the qualifications for fighters to enter Mizoram Fight League?
There will be two separate events in each event month – MFL contenders and MFL Fight nights. Contenders will be open for all and, will be used as a base for selecting fighters for the next main fight nights. Selections will be based on previous martial arts and MMA records, plus their performance in the contenders.
We have started a new strategy of compulsory fitness and skill tests which comprises of 8 specific tests for testing agility, speed, core strength etc. which is to be passed by each individual before getting into the contenders or fight nights.
Which strata of the society the fighters mostly come from?
As we know in India, sports participants primarily come from the financially poor and less educated background of the society. But in MMA, the trend has changed and we have a good lot of fighters from the educated class and the upper classes of the society. This has made it a revolutionary sport indeed. Even those who are from the backward classes of the societies are getting good moral and financial support in some way or the other, from the society and well-wishers. I believe MMA is the future of sports in the state of Mizoram.
Are these fighters here for fame or money or survival?
I can say most, or all of the fighters are here for their passion, to make their dreams come true. Fame, money and survival come next for them. India has been displaying Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events live on TV since many years, and it is the dream of many youths to learn the art and participate in such MMA events. We are lucky to have AIMMAA to start amateur level MMA promotion events in India, and now due to the strong team of MISMA officials we could do events in our very own homeland. So, we hope to give fighters all that they can hope for- some sort of fame, money and even survival skills.
How promising is MMA for professional fighters?
The future of professional fighters is not so well defined in India right now. But we are starting at the amateur level and we hope to have a very bright future soon, by the grace of God and the support of the public and government.
Are MMA fight rules modified for Mizoram or the rules the same with those of the professional fights?
MFL is purely an amateur league, in order to develop fighters at the grassroots level. The events that we are going to conduct will follow the same rules laid down by the International MMA Federation (IMMAF), which is one of the biggest MMA organization in the world right now. We will also be giving points to fighters as per the guidelines laid down by IMMAF, to let them have individual and team/club rankings. We also plan to conduct one big professional fight night at the end of the year wherein we will follow the unified rules of MMA followed worldwide (like the ones used in UFC).
A recent HBO show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel highlights the brutal domestic violence inflicted on Christy Mack by her ex-boyfriend, former UFC and Bellator fighter Jon Koppenhaver. Do you think it is really good to promote MMA and Muay Thai in Mizoram and among the Zo tribes?
If we are going to look at the personal lives of anyone we will always find a black sheep among every organization or society, even among the church leaders. So, one or two mishaps cannot be a cause for demoralization. If we look at the sport of MMA as a whole, it leads to the well being and welfare of the youths. Already many youths have given up smoking and street fights due to the discipline inculcated with the learning of MMA, along with their desire to become a better fighter or person as a whole. Learning MMA is a good hobby being an excellent physical workout program, which serves as a huge stress reliever, and at the same time will build confidence; teach discipline, self-defense, competitive spirit and the art of making new friends. I believe that MMA can be one of the main factors to bring about a social, moral and positive physical health based revolution among the youths.
Mizoram DGP Thianghlima Pachuau, during the inaugural ceremony of MFL said the event would provide a new opportunity for ‘eizawnna’ (employment). How realistic is a fighting career in MMA?
As per the report of the media, UFC rebranded itself from “human cockfighting” to the fastest growing sports organization in the world. UFC was bought for $2 million. Today, the value of UFC continues to grow and according to ESPN reports its final valuation is around $4 billion. Even in India, many big promotions like SFL have come up.
Even though the game is not recognized by the government or Olympics in India right now, due to the large quantity of spectators and enthusiasts, sponsors are ready to come up for its development. At our very own league, we have made a plan such that the fighters will get some incentive cash awards for each fight, whether they win or lose. Even for the contenders, there will be no entry fee, as followed in most amateur games. Payment of fighters is done only for professional bouts, but in our amateur events, even though we are not awarding the amateurs official cash prizes, we will still be giving them some cash and incentives in kind, as I mentioned before.
Also, we have four good teams/clubs participating in our events – DSZ fight club, PROMISE Strivers, BCA Brawlers and Jaggernaut MMA. And through these teams and their benevolent owners, fighters are also getting many benefits like good MMA shorts, training equipment, good coaching etc. Both, the Mizoram Home and Sports ministries are morally very supportive. The DGP and the Home Minister, Pu R Lalzirliana, himself are patrons in MISMA. Hence, we can hope for better “eizawnna” (employment) scope through these various factors, combined with the continuous support of the public.