New Delhi [India], March 28 (ANI): India Jiu-Jitsu fighter Siddharth Singh said that his protege Anshul Jubli's victory in the Road to UFC, which gave him a full-time deal with the promotion, marks the start of a new era in Indian mixed martial arts and recalled the fighter's struggle-filled journey in the sport.
In an interview with ANI, Siddharth discussed Anshul's journey in MMA, his struggles and his victory in the Road to UFC that made him the second Indian after Bharat Kandare to earn a UFC contract.
Anshul entered the tournament in October last year and won his semifinal bout against South Korea's Kim Kyung Pyo. Then on February 4 at the UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Spiwak event, he defeat Indonesia's Jeka Sirigah in the final to win the tournament and gain a UFC contract.
"It feels really great. The first-ever Indian to get the deal got a direct chance to fight in UFC. But Anshul had to win a tournament for it. There was this eight-man tournament where they took the best 70 kg fighters from Asia. He was given a bye in the first round. He fought a tough fight against a Korean fighter in the semis in October last year and became the first Indian to win inside a UFC cage. It was a big deal as Japan, and Korea are among the MMA powerhouses. In the finals, he faced Indonesia's Jeka Saragih, who had won his last two fights by KO, one against an Indian, Pawan Mann in the quarterfinal. Everyone was counting out Anshul. There was a lot of pressure. But we went to the fight with a gameplan and Anshul won the match by TKO," Siddharth told ANI while recalling Anshul's journey in the tournament.
On Anshul's training and struggles in making it to the professional MMA scene, Siddharth said that he has been training in MMA for the last four years and had to go abroad for professional MMA fights due to a lack of opportunities in India.
"For the last four years, Anshul has been training for MMA at the Crosstrain Fight Club academy. In India, there are not many good places to train for MMA. But Anshul got a good training facility. He also got a chance to participate in good amateur competitions and make some records. He performed all over India and had a record of 15-0" said Siddarth.
But lack of professional opportunities and promotions in India meant that Anshul had to go abroad. He prepared well for his first tournament in the Philippines but it was cancelled. Anshul almost quit the sport due to lack of funds as he had taken a loan for his training and had invested a lot financially to venturing into the realm of professional MMA.
"I received a call from Matrix Fight Night run by Tiger Shroff and they needed a 70 kg fighter. He won a fight there against someone whom nobody was ready to fight out of fear and there was a buzz around Anshul since he had defeated the best fighter in a dominating way. Since then, he took part in five fights at MFN and won them all. He became the face of MMA last year. We received a call from UFC and felt ready to go. We trained really hard and covered all the aspects. He then went on to win his two fights in UFC," added Siddharth.
Siddharth said that in MMA, a sport which combines many combat disciplines, every fighter must know four disciplines in modern day, namely Boxing, Kickboxing/Muay Thai, Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu.
"In India, fighters are mainly one or two-dimensional as they know wrestling and boxing. We decided to work on all four dimensions. All aspects of his game are good. But his boxing and jiu-jitsu are strongest," added Siddharth.
On what Anshul's tournament win and UFC deal mean to Indian MMA, Siddharth said, "From my point of view, the Indian MMA is starting from now with Anshul's win as he came from a humble background and defeated foreign fighters who have a fighting culture. Winning a UFC tournament is a big thing for this homegrown athlete. It will inspire upcoming fighters and they've got a belief. It is exciting for audiences too." (ANI)