Continuing with our series of interviews with All India Mixed Martial Arts Association (AIMMAA) National Commissioner Daniel Isaac, IMMAF.org takes a look at the developing potential for a UFC event to take place in one of the promotion’s most significant untapped markets.
In 2012, UFC co-owner and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta discussed the promotion’s interest in making its way to India, but at the time highlighted that they would be starting from “ground-zero”. Fast forward to 2014 and the status of the UFC’s interest in India had become “a priority“ in the words of managing director of international development, Marshall Zelaznik.
In previous articles we looked at the widespread presence of government backed AIMMAA sanctioning across India, as well as the great potential for the continued growth of MMA that comes with India’s immense population of over 1 billion. The AIMMAA’s Daniel Isaac has discussed the growing number of recreational and competitive participants in the country and also the media platforms bringing exposure to both the UFC and MMA as a whole.
“The UFC is covered well in India through regular telecasts on Sony Six and Sony ESPN. We get to watch both live and post-produced telecasts of every UFC Fight Night , PPV and TUF season. These telecasts have definitely helped AIMMAA in our efforts to promote the sport through education, events and training”
When asked if he could visualise his country hosting a UFC event in the near future, the AIMMAA official expressed that he believes India to be more than ready.
“The UFC could have organised an event in India right from the time that Dana White first mentioned his interest in the Indian market. In my opinion, the IMMAF reaching out to India through the AIMMAA has increased the reasons why it would be beneficial to hold an event in India. The AIMMAA is the oldest government recognised MMA organisation in India, AIMMAA has the largest network of state associations affiliated under one national banner and is the only MMA body working under recognition from the highest sporting authorities in the country. AIMMAA is the only national federation in India recognised by IMMAF, so what better reason for UFC to physically come to India. I have had numerous meetings with Sony Six (MSM) and we have a good communication with them. They are the official broadcast partner for UFC in India.”
The AIMMAA has sanctioned each Super Fight League event that has taken place in India, these being the biggest fight shows in the country, plus one SFL show in Dubai alongside a host of nationwide events (list HERE). India’s national governing body has built an efficient and effective team procedure that has even impressed the likes of UFC referee and IMMAF regulatory affairs consultant Marc Goddard as far back as 2012.
“At SFL 3 in 2012, held in Delhi; during the pre-event officials meeting UFC Referee Marc Goddard was surprised at the knowledge and the know-how of the Indian MMA officials team. That was way back in 2012 and we are 4 years better experienced than then. We follow all protocol of the Unified Rules of MMA for every pro event and follow the highest standards for sport, health and safety. It is my personal and professional opinion that AIMMAA can successfully and confidently sanction a UFC event in India. If the IMMAF prefers to have AIMMAA shadow sanction the event, we’re happy for that to. We respect the experience that the UFC has but definately feel that the UFC and IMMAF would surely want a strong on-ground National Federation in AIMMAA to host the inaugural UFC show in India.”
While the AIMMAA representative is confident of his nation’s ability to welcome the UFC, he nevertheless acknowledges that India’s current crop of professional MMA veterans are not yet ready to compete at the sport’s highest level. In a display of AIMMAA’s professionalism and understanding of the sport, he stresses that legitimate progression for competitors is of the upmost importance and that there is no desire for Indian athletes to be rushed in their development as a strong amateur foundation is the eventual key to developing proven talent on the world stage.
“Apart from our National Amateur Team participating at the World Championships which was held at the UFC Fan Expo, I believe that even the most experienced pro MMA fighter of Indian nationality is still not ready for the UFC. India has budding talent at both pro and amateur levels and fighters need to gain proper experience and develop their skills through dedicated and consistent training under legitimate instructors. We regard our relationship with IMMAF as the doorway for Indian athletes to finally reach the UFC and we are happy to patiently work our way up that ladder. The partnership between IMMAF and UFC is legitimate and beneficial for all those involved. We are in no hurry, we firmly believe in the IMMAF and embrace all positive moves relating to athlete development.”
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Written by IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran