Forget Bollywood, Mumbai enjoys fight nights

Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:10am EDT
 
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By Danish Siddiqui

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The small wooden door in a film studio complex deep within the heart of Mumbai creaks open to pumping music, a beer-guzzling crowd and two men raining punches and kicks onto each other in the makeshift ring.

Welcome to India's very own fight night.

First started around three years ago by Full Contact Championship (FCC), a company founded to promote mixed martial arts, fight nights are slowly gaining popularity in India, a nation where people traditionally have had no inclination to pay money to watch somebody be physically beaten in front of them.

But increasing globalization, and years of growing up watching overseas professional wrestling broadcasts, have given younger Indians a taste for seeing the real thing themselves.

"The first time I went into a fight ring, I froze for a few seconds. There were so many people cheering for me, especially girls," said a blushing Sangram "Slammer" Bhakre, a 21-year-old mixed martial arts fighter.

Sangram, who is also preparing for his third-year university exams, is a trained wrestler, boxer and wushu fighter who is something of a hero in his local club in Kolhapur, a town 400 km (250 miles) south of Mumbai.

He is like many of the young fighters who take part in the fight nights, young men trained in different types of martial arts who come from small towns where such training is becoming popular. Sangram spent nine hours on a bus to reach India's commercial and financial hub -- a journey he makes twice a year.

The fighters come for quick money and cheering by a live audience. A fighter can make 10,000 to 20,000 Indian rupees ($200-$300) from a single bout, which sometimes lasts less than a minute. The average Indian monthly income is about 4,416 rupees, according to government data.   Continued...

 
Amjad Khan, a 30-year-old mixed martial arts fighter, falls down during a bout at a fight night in Mumbai February 25, 2012. First started around three years ago by Full Contact Championship (FCC), a company founded to promote mixed martial arts, fight nights are slowly gaining popularity in India, a nation where people traditionally have had no inclination to pay money to watch somebody be physically beaten in front of them. But increasing globalisation, and years of growing up watching overseas professional wrestling broadcasts, have given younger Indians a taste for seeing the real thing themselves. Picture taken February 25, 2012. To match story INDIA-FIGHTNIGHT/ REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui