Mixed Martial Arts in Nagaland – Hivika Shohe, Class XII (Arts)

The world of fitness is flexing its muscle and within it Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is becoming a rapidly growing sport. Conor McGregor, Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz are some of the champions in the mixed martial arts world. This is against the backdrop of an unknown and derided Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC, a premier MMA organization) a decade ago. Today its value is over $4 billion. Hivika Shohe, a budding MMA fighter shares his thoughts on this combat sport. 

Mixed Martial Arts in Nagaland

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts like Wrestling, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, kick-boxing and so on. 

I came to know about MMA through some of my close friends from DPSD back in 2014. They would talk about it all day long in class, which sounded great to me and I finally started practicing it in 2015. I don’t distinctly remember my first class. I just introduced myself to some of my instructors and gym mates. The first day of class is always boring but because I had a huge interest and desire to learn this art, it wasn’t so for me. The first thing I learned is that inside the gym, everyone is equal and so our instructors and coach denied us to address them as “Sir”. They were like, “There are no sirs here, you can call me coach or by my name.” Because MMA is a combat sport, I always thought they’d be arrogant and bossy but it turned out to be completely the opposite. They were actually one of the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. I mean they were animals inside the cage (the arena for MMA sport) but I tell you, they are very humble, calm, composed and kind outside the cage.

I learnt tons of things from MMA. The place where I used to train is TCAN (The Combat Academy-Nagaland) Dimapur, and in that gym, martial arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, BJJ( Brazilian jiu-jitsu) are taught and I’ve learnt very well the basic techniques of those martial arts. Boxing is all about your punches and footwork, meaning how you move while you are engaged in that sport. Muay Thai is mainly the use of knees and elbows like the fights from the infamous movie Ong Bak. Wrestling is all about taking down your opponent to the ground. And BJJ is about submitting your opponent by giving him a submission. In simple terms, BJJ is all about hurting your opponent and making him tap (Quit). Striking is not allowed in this sport.
In TCAN, I’m known as a good BJJ artist, and I actually am better at it compared to those other arts probably because I have long limbs and most of the time I  dominate the game. Maybe the reason why I’m better at it is because I’m taught not to hit people. But the truth is I sometimes slacked off during other form of martial arts training days, because I was more into BJJ.  The other thing I learned is how MMA can never run out of things to teach you. You don’t graduate from MMA! So, people who really love MMA are very lucky because they will always learn new things to apply in their MMA journey and in their daily lives which is even more important.

I would say the prospect of MMA in Nagaland is pretty good. Ever since the establishment of TCAN in 2014, the first gym for MMA in Nagaland, the state has successfully hosted three Yoddha Fighting Championship (YFC) – a pan Indian Mixed Martial Arts promotion for amateur fighters. The first was in Dimapur (2014) the second in Mokokchung (2015) and the latest edition in Kohima (April 2017). In all these, we have seen a number of promising Naga fighters participating. At the grand finale of the YFC 2017, Imkong Jamir, a Naga lad from TCAN emerged as the champion in featherweight (61-66 kg) category.  Even the number of spectators that showed up to watch these fights is amazing. They are more than the spectators in other sports like football or badminton. Naga people are prepared to shell out cash to watch a fight. But having said that, MMA isn’t flourishing right now here in Nagaland and the reason, in my opinion, is because the fighters don’t consider MMA as a serious career option. To excel as a fighter, one must concentrate on the training, work hard and particularly focus on it, and not just go about playing all sports. Strict discipline and consistency both in training and diet are essential, which we Nagas often find hard to maintain. This goes for all the sports and not just MMA.

My personal experience with the struggle to become an MMA fighter wasn’t that severe. Yes, I did suffer to become one but it wasn’t so much that I have to write about it. Being an MMA fighter is tough though, and that is coming from a guy who only fought once. To compete in an MMA tournament, you have to train hard for months or even up to a year, maintain diet and all this just to fight for just 3 or 5 rounds. In an amateur tournament, 3 minutes are given for each round and 5 rounds are fought for the championship belt, so, you can do the math. The fight will be over if either one is submitted or knocked out. You train hard for a long period of time and if you don’t even go the distance (completing all the rounds without getting submitted or knocked out) then all the blood, sweat and tears that you put in goes to waste.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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