MMA in India: All eyes on the cage

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MUMBAI, MAR 15,
Cricket may be India’s favourite sport, but MMA has been seeing a massive surge in popularity in the last few years. Just this week, Mumbai saw three promotions: the X1 International Women’s Fight Night, the Matrix Fight Night (organised by actor Tiger Shroff’s MMA-based fitness centre, MMA Matrix) and tonight’s Underground Fight Night, at Famous Studios.So what sets MMA apart, when sports like NBA or Formula 1 are also trying to find steady footing in the country? For one, there’s the adrenaline rush. The fights are unpredictable — when Jose Aldo faced Conor McGregor in 2015, at the UFC 194 main event, the fight lasted just 13 seconds, with McGregor knocking out the Brazilian legend. We’ve also seen brutal knock-outs over the years, with fighters being taken to the hospital right after.
And while the drama in the cage and the controversies outside of it (earlier this week, McGregor was arrested for smashing a fan’s phone) are aplenty, none of it is scripted.
The backstories of the fighters are interesting, too. Some are former Olympians and professional footballers, while others have fought their way up from grassroots promotions to the big leagues. Like McGregor, who almost missed his UFC debut because he had to collect a welfare cheque. Today, the Irishman and former UFC lightweight champion is known for his custom-made suits (the pinstripes often competing with his salty language) and his own range of Irish whisky. In 2015, Ronda Rousey, the most successful female mixed martial arts fighter (who has since moved to WWE), found crossover fame in Hollywood.

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