What does it take to revolutionize the Combat Sports business in India and develop one of the largest and most popular MMA Promotion in a country?
Ask the man, who created a new wave and opened up international floodgates of opportunities for Combat Sports in India.
Meet Mohamedali Budhwani, Chairman & MD of Toyam Industries Limited and founder of Kumite 1 League.
The battle was set about a couple of decades ago during Budhwani's graduation days. "I remember watching 'Mike Tyson Vs Holyfield' thinking, why doesn't India produce such world champions?"
One thing led to the other and before he could realise, he was wearing the entrepreneurs' hat on multiple projects simultaneously, and his passion for combat sports had to take a backseat.
Post 2006, the world saw a new sport emerging from the USA, which attracted huge audience. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had arrived. Mixed Martial Arts was becoming the fastest growing sport in the world.
Late 2010, the scene had started building in India, a few attempts were made in the early 2012 – 2015.
Meanwhile, Budhwani's fascination grew from only boxing to the emerging new sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Big things were happening in the UFC, with a change of guard valued at USD 4.2 bn. The sport of MMA was officially recognised by global media as the fastest growing sport in the world.
Budhwani came up with a masterplan to popularise the sport of Mixed Martial Arts in the country. It took 6 months and a lot of coffees to figure the best way to build MMA as a mainstream and mass engagement game in India.
The first step was to show the business and popularity of the sport to the audience of India. Unfortunately the Indian mass did not connect well with international MMA stars and India has not yet produced idols of the sport.
This is when Mike Tyson happened. A long trip to the USA, hours of convincing Iron Mike to come to India and he agreed to have his first trip to India. Thereafter, all the cards played out well – a global Boxing legend, popular within the masses in India, as brand ambassador, an introductory event at Mumbai's most prestigious venue with a 6000+ audience and influencers in attendance, a country vs country format with an unique live point scoring system for better understanding of the sport. The final strike came in with event broadcast in 91 countries across the world including India.
Budhwani says that "MMA bears resemblance to the bygone Gladiator era. Combatants fought with each other in an arena and entertained audiences having utilised all their mental and physical resilience to come out victorious".
With that vision, Kumite 1 League had arrived in style.
So what's next?
Step 1, established the brand and the sport within the mass community. Now Indians would like to see their own idols in the sport of MMA. So, next Up – Kumite 1 Warrior Hunt – India's first televised talent hunt and reality series in search of the best homegrown MMA talent from India.
A few thoughts from Budhwani - "We are creating a sustainable environment and infrastructure so that Indian MMA athletes can have ample opportunities to create their own identity. India needs to produce world-class fighters for the sport to take root and grow exponentially and 'Warrior Hunt' is our ambitious project in unearthing the raw, hidden talent and nurturing them into world-class athletes"