The Super Fight League Makes India A Hub For MMA

Super Fight League, `Never Stop Fighting’

INR 4 CR up for grabs in the form of prize money ­

Eight franchisees to battle out for the top spot ­

96 National and International MMA stars to feature in the league ­

Women fighters across nations to be part of the team event

-Super Fight League-

How do you make MMA, currently estimated as a four billion dollar industry with a staggering global following, more popular? CEO of the Super Fight League, British Tycoon and Philanthropist Bill Dosanjh, has got a few answers for you and they all pack a punch.

It all happened back in 2010, when Dosanjh was in the USA with current SFL Chairman (then the WBA Super Champion) Amir Khan. Dosanjh and the Bolton boxer were taken aback by how well MMA was doing in the USA. Boxing has been around for centuries, and has obviously cultivated quite the following, however, the advent of MMA in the USA was pulling numbers that Dosanjh and Khan had never seen before. Then the penny dropped. “Almost every American High School has a wrestling team,” Donsanjh says he realised.

The Beginning

The grappling aspect of MMA played perfectly to a large audience invested in a style of fighting that, aside from the olympics, didn’t get much spotlight. It was then that Dosanjh remembered Kushti, the second most-watched online sport in India after cricket. “Grappling is such a core aspect of MMA. All the fighters, at some point, have to train in wrestling. And in India we have around 10 million fighters, many coming from a Kushti background,” he explains. And as far as a domestic audience goes, Dosanjh estimates, “60 percent of the population in India is under 25, so we’ve (SFL) got such a huge population to connect with”.

 

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

But without a narrative strong enough to find itself a script in Bollywood, does anything have true mass appeal in India? It’s probably this exact sentiment that nudges Dosanjh to make a point of stating how movies like Sultan have helped expose the tradition of wrestling in India. Such movies have helped Kushti find its way into the mainstream, as well as shown how Kushti fits in with the future of fighting from a global perspective. For Dosanjh, the SFL is an opportunity to reintroduce India’s time honoured fighting tradition. “India and fighting tradition date way back, the south Indian style of fight, Kalaripayattu, is even older than kung fu,” he says. We were a bit surprised by this statement, but our research concurs that Kalaripayattu, considered to be 3000-year-old art form, is thought to have influenced the birth of kung fu through Bodhi Dharma, an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master who taught Shaolin monks his skills.

 The Brainchild  

After Dosanjh explained why there is already an untapped audience inclined to enjoy the SFL in India, he elaborated on the SFL’s efforts to expand their audience. The first thing on his mind? Team affiliation. “We’ve seen it before. I mean 20-20 cricket was around before the IPL. They just made one minor tweak (city affiliated teams) and it did phenomenally well”. And he’s right. The IPL exploded, as people love repping their city because it adds another layer of pride and collective support to the experience of the sport. The Pro Kabaddi League is another example of how a sport was completely revamped through team affiliation, moving kabbadi players who were living in chawls (low income housing tenements) into nice, city apartments due to the league’s success. And this happened all through one tweak.

Now imagine if you took it further. Well, there’s no need because that’s exactly what the SFL’s Head Honcho did.

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

For some reason, the MMA world and the professional fighting world in general, didn’t pick up on this team aspect beforehand. Now that it’s here thanks to the SFL, many are thrilled to be a few steps ahead of the UFC. The SFL currently features eight teams representing Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai, Haryana, Bengaluru, Punjab, Gujarat and Goa.

However, Dosanjh wanted to do more than graft to a concept that’s proven to work, so he continued to contemplate how he could make the sport more accessible to fans. “When you leave the stadium after a football or cricket match your connection with the players ends. You go home, you can’t watch them train, or train with them,’ he explains. “But with the SFL you won’t be disconnected like that, you’ll be able to develop a bond with the fighters”. This is because over the next five years, each franchisee in the SFL has to develop five gyms in their team’s city. These gyms will be where the SFL fighters train, as well as, where the SFL fighters will train others. This way fans can drop by the gym to watch their favorite fighters train, or get a couple of private lessons with an actual SFL fighter. The first Bengaluru and Delhi gyms are already up and running, so if you’re an MMA fan you might want to check them out.

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

“This is an ecosystem to build a grassroots level of fighters and fans,’ Dosanjh adds, ‘no league has managed a revenue model like this. Here you only need a 3,000 square foot area, gloves, pads and weights. You can’t do this with other popular sports like football and cricket”.

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

Dosanjh also feels that the SFL has the advantage as far as digital revenues go. “You see cricket is mostly relevant in terms of commonwealth countries, whereas MMA is applicable everywhere. It’s the second most watched online sport in Asia. And it’s the first watched online sport in the west. With 50 million NRIs outside India, many in the UK and USA, there’s a huge market. If only 0.01 percent of this community watches a SFL fight night for five dollars, watch, that’s a half-a-million dollars dollars in digital revenues for one night,” he says. 0.01 percents is not only a lowball figure, but it excludes the rest of the global community, so yes, those digital dollars will be flowing in too.

The added plus is that the SFL has fight nights Friday, Saturday and Sunday, another feat the UFC hasn’t accomplished. This not only makes the sport more accessible, but increases the weekly revenue threefold.

Super Fight League  Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

Oh, and we haven’t even started with the owners yet. We’ve seen the celebrity mania that has surrounded the IPL, and the ISL to some extent, but it’s a bit different with the SFL. Many of the actors involved with the teams are real fans of MMA and fight themselves. So when they celebrate they aren’t flailing around for the limelight, they’re actually invested, literally and figuratively, in the sport.

Celebrity Fandom

There’s Randeep Hooda, co-owner of the Haryana Sultans’, who trained in MMA two hours a day in Thailand, while shooting ‘Do Lafzon Ki Kahani’, reportedly even shooting with torn ligaments and broken bones. Hooda, also, helped train his peer and friend Salman Khan for Sultan, not only through his role, but in reality as well. Then we have Arjun Rampal as the co-owner of Delhi Heroes, who is widely known as being dedicated to fitness. He commented to The Indian Express, “I think it takes a lot of guts to practice the sport. It might look little violent but at the end of the day the guys are really fit and incredible athletes”. Moreover, Tiger Shroff, actor and martial artist, is a co-owner of the Bengaluru Tigers. He’s not only a fighter, but has the same namesake as the team, it doesn’t get much better than that. With other celebrities like Ajay Devgan (Mumbai Maniacs) and Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant (UP Nawabs) Dosanjh is confident when he says, “even the IPL won’t see so many celebrity faces attached to teams”. Click here for full list of owners.

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

Scoring The Fight Right

Opening night of the SFL we saw Hooda’s Haryana Sultans and Rampal’s Delhi Heroes go head-to-head in a great series of bouts. However, what made the night even better was the SFL’s scoring system, making the first head-to-head of the season a real nailbiter. Each fight night six members of each SFL team fight (five male and one female), representing their different weight classes. The scoring for each match goes as follows:

1. Draw = +1

  • Unanimous Draw – When all three judges score the contest a draw

  • Majority Draw – When two judges score the contest a draw

  • Split Draw – When all three judges score differently

2. Referee Decision = +3

  • When Referee gets the last word and scores the contestant(s)

  • Unanimous Decision – When all the three judges score win for a contestant.

  • Split Decision – When two judges score a contestant and third judge scores the other contestant.

3. Technical Knock Out = +4

  • When Referee stops the contest and when an injury as a result of a legal maneuver is severe enough to terminate a bout.

4. Submission = +5

  • Physical Tap Out and/or Verbal tap out.

5. Knock Out = +6

  • When contestant being rendered unconscious due strikes or kicks also known as a ‘lights out knockout’.

 

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

Dosanjh cheekily asked us about which scoring system we knew that was similar to this, and after a brief brain freeze, we realized the scoring system shares an uncanny similarity to cricket. Yes, the SFL has planned out their operation so well they even have a scoring system that will immediately resonate with the domestic viewership. Moreover, it made the opening fight night far more interesting to watch as Haryana immediately came out the gate swinging, taking a substantial lead at first. The Warriors were up 12 to 3 with two fights to go.

In the second to last fight Capt. Jason Solomon and Capt. Ahmed Kumar spent 3:45 minutes of the first round doling out heavy blows, the fight ending with Delhi’s Solomon earning five points by forcing Kumar to commit a physical tap out. Then in the last round Delhi won another submission making the final score 13 to 12. In essence the opening night fight best describes the SFL, an entity striving to bring out the best of MMA.

 

Super Fight League Image source: SFL

Super Fight League
Image source: SFL

The point system heightens the competitiveness of fight night, as fighters are fighting for more than personal glory, but for their team and their city. It also solves MMA’s, and the fighting world’s, issue with extremely early knockouts. If you’ve just paid for a stadium ticket or paid for live streaming, and the bout ends well before the bell of the first round most people feel kind of gypped, or disappointed. However, with this point system there is still hope for your team to come back.

Dosanjh puts it best, “we’ve bought into the vision, now it is reality”. And the reality is India is making MMA history with the SFL league.

Keep track of SFL’s next moves below:

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 Images Courtesy Of Super Fight League

Words By: Julian Manning

 

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