Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Super Fight :League : Devil in disguise ??? Part 2 of 2

If you have reached this page without reading Part 1 please CLICK HERE to read the first part of this article.

2013 begins a new phase in the development of the sport of MMA in India. Fighters representing judo wrestling boxing and other combat sports have got a taste of what it is to compete in an mma cage. Some of these one dimentional fighters have won and some have lost to the more complete mma athletes but all of them want a facility to train mma. They want somehere to eat live and train mma full time. The SFL fighters take this request to CEO Daniel Isaac who forwards a proposal to chairman Raj Kundra. The proposal is approved and although without any sponsors to fund this the SFL invests in this world class training centre.

Over a record time of 3 months the SFL sets up an 8000 square-foot world class fully functional mma training centre , offers free scholarship [ covering free stay , travel , training , food] for those fighters who have excelled in season 2012 and hires some of the top mma instructors to train the Indian fighters. Bjj instructor from serbia Dejan Tesic , dutch muay thai coach Edgar Noordanus and BJJ super sensei and world champion Marcos Oliveira are part of the training sqaud for many months. Veteran mma indian fighter Alan Fenandes is hired to lead team India and over-see the new training facility and faculty. The SFL offers this facility and office to the AIMMAA for all official mma training in India. This 'Devil in disguise' really is scheming up some 'wicked plans' I must say ! Free training , World class mma / muay thai and bjj instructors , Free accomodation , a daily food allowance , free daily transport from the accomodation to the facility , free wi-fi , television with all channels and a beautiful location in one of the most scenic and peaceful regions of India. The approximate cost to setup this state of the art training facility was a crore. A picture says a thousand words , checkout the number of pics below , do the math - Nuff said.

Grappling and Kickboxing section in the background

A rack of free weights opposite the mma training cage

An MMA training cage in the middle

Kickboxing training bags

Treadmills !

Construction stage 1 , the open terrace for outdoor training

Construction stage 1 the indoor hall

This was the grappling area before the mats and interior designing began

The sand mound is where the cage was setup

Fighters and guests have their own private lift in the building

Of course you could always use the stairs

Private parking at the basement !

Entrance for cars and motorcycles

View of the building from the side

View of the building from the front , the entire top floor was for the SFL gym

Separate lift entrance for the SFL gym

The equipment arrives

Cage setup stage 1

Cage setup stage 2

Cage setup stage 3

new training gear for the SFL camp fighters !

The grappling area 

Construction work on the terrace flooring begins

Interior work at the office

Motivational posters all around the gym

Sensei Dejan Tesic [ Serbia] leading a training session
The team of in-house trainers who led the SFL India bootcamp

One view of the SFL training bootcamp

Entrance poster

Deepak Singh heavyweight SFL fighter

Amitesh and Sandeep sparring

Coach edgar leading a striking session

Coach edgar sparring with Irfan Khan

The 'A' Team at the SFL bootcamp with coaches Edgar and Alan

Coaches Alan Fenandes and Edgar Noordanus

Training for men and women

2014 Asian games wushu sanda bronze meddalist for India Narender Grewal training with Daniel Isaac

Fighters line up for a morning session of weight training

Outdoor training - strength and conditioning

Dejan Tesic from serbia served as MMA coach for the SFL bootcamp for 6 months in India

SFL mma fighters paying respect to their coach and mentor Alan Fenandes

BJJ world champion Marcos Oliviera from Brazil came to the SFL India camp to help train the Indian fighters and grade some of them in BJJ

Marcos is the head instructor for BJJ for Alan Fenandes

SFL provided its fighters with a daily to and fro drop in the company bus.

The bus had promo stickers of the SFL show timings on Star Sports

SFL fighters at an intense training session
See the video below of the gym filmed immediately after its official opening :

Watch fighters training at the bootcamp :

With sudden media and press noise about MMA , the SFL shows soon started becoming the haunt of celebs and movie personalities which obviously created opportunities for the SFL fighters.

Of course my dear friends you would all agree with me when I say that a contract is a legally valid document and indian / international fighters were briefed well enough regarding the terms and conditions of their 1 , 2 or 3 year agreements. As long as everything was great the fighters were happy , the moment the SFL started facing financial issues a small percentage of them tried to exit their contracts without going about the legal way and thus the SFL legal team had to take stern action. Thats why when you read the quotes of the article where the writer says and I quote "other fighters were forced to stay with the organization" you know what he was referring to. Forget the SFL , whether it is the UFC , Bellator or any other MMA promotion if you want to exit your contract you need to bring your lawyer along and there needs to be a process which can settle the matter.
Without sharing too much info I can safely say that Ritika Singh , Irfan Khan , Deepak Singh and Alan Fenandes and many more fighters will soon be featured on the big screen - thanks to their management contracts signed by the SFL. The inside story however is that the SFL never took a single rupee off of these fighters for their deal with the movie companies , 100% of the fighter money for these deals went to the fighters and no one else. Reference pics below :

SFL fighters featured on the hit dance show Nach Balliye courtesy Shilpa Shetty Kundra and the Super Fight League

SFL mumbai star fighter Irfan Khan and Bollywood supertar Ranbir Kapoor behind the scenes of Bombay velvet

Ash Singh : SFL fighter / trainer and personal trainer for Ranbir Kapoor

A still from a soon to be released south indian blockbuster featuring Ritika Singh and bollywood star Madhavan

A still from a soon to be released south indian blockbuster featuring Ritika Singh and bollywood star Madhavan

A still from a soon to be released south indian blockbuster featuring Ritika Singh and bollywood star Madhavan

A still from a soon to be released south indian blockbuster featuring Ritika Singh and bollywood star Madhavan

Ash Singh , Alan fenandes , Ranbir kapoor and Deepak Singh
Watch the trailer of SFL fighter Ritika Singhs movie debut :

The 2013 season of the SFL shifted to filmalaya studios , the show looked fantastic on Indias biggest sports broadcaster - Star Sports , the weekly on ground show packed the the venue with close to a thousand people. Movie stars and celebrities attended every event and cheered on the fights as Indian mma fighters took on international stars. Irfan Khan and Bhabajeet choudhury received international mma awards and international mma recognitions on all mma media. Each SFL show in this new season featured martial arts demonstrations , an in-house dj , free food for the audience and top knotch mma fights.

Mumbai mma fighter Sumeet Khade 

Fighters hands being wrapped pre-fight

The entrance to the SFL show at filmalaya studios

Friendly entrance bouncers LOL

A spectacular view of the SFL shows at filmalaya studios as seen either LIVE or on Star Sports

SFL fighters Irfan Khan and Bhabajeet received international awards from FightSport Asia

DJ Russel doin his thing 

Martial arts demonstartions was a feature attraction at the 2013 SFL season

Many SFL Indian fighters received overnight Star Status after being featured on Star Sports

Watch a video of how popular the SFL became overnight in Mumbai , this cant be lies ???

The 2013 season also gave rise to a new grass-roots level pro circuit which would also serve both as a tryouts and as qualifying rounds for the big shows. The SFL headquarters training centre was selected as the venue for 'SFL contenders' as every month male and female fighters from across the nation would register and compete at this event and the top 10 selected fighters at every event would get an SFL contract and compete on the big show telecasted on Star Sports , the selected fighters would also get a scholarship at the training headquarters and stay with the other fghters at the SFL camp houses. SFL contenders became the "MTV roadies auditions' version for MMA in India as literally hundreds of talented fighters lined up the night before to register for these qualifying rounds to get selected and compete at the Super Fight League.

Watch video highlights of SFL contenders :

With this and more [ obviously time , privacy , data and space constraints limit me from sharing all info ] the SFL took to new heights promoting the sport of MMA in India , bigger plans were made for 2014-2015 ... until in October 2013 at one of the SFL shows in Mumbai an unnecessary , unwanted interference from local thugs / gangsters turned a small scuffle into a major confrontation outside the SFL venue [ during the LIVE show] , security and the police were unable to deal with the situation resulting in crores of rupees [ millions of dollars] worth of damage of broadcast equipment to the SFL and venue property. Many SFL staff and AIMMAA officials were injured during this attack. The  damages and losses brought the SFL operations in India to standstill , many vendors and partners too were affected with this situation. Over the next one year the SFL struggled to put together smaller shows and promotional events , mid 2014 saw the SFL shows and events now come to a complete stand-still as the insurance companies refused to settle the crores of rupees worth of losses. As of now this situation is still unsettled - the SFL offices and training centres were shutdown as the management was unable to sustain the costs. The SFL however put together whatever remaining funds and paid in full all its fighters and staff both national and international and informed them all that they would not be operating in India until further notice. The SFL informed all its fighters that if they want to take mma pro fights out of their contract they are free to do so however the promoter of the event would need to speak with the SFL and get a 'No objection certificate' , wasnt this fair ? The SFL had invested millions of dollars into its fighters and all it asked for the fighters to represent the company that promoted them for 2 years when they took non SFL fights. Sadly these fighters chose not to do so , they wanted out and out for good , thus the issue remained at deadlock. Some fighters walked out on their contracts , took bad matchups offered by shady promoters , werent paid for their fights and were beaten badly at those bouts.

Although the above mentioned series of events brought SFL India operations to a halt , there is hope on the horizon , the SFL has regrouped and begun promoting shows internationally - USA , Europe and Asia are its targets , what the future holds for this very resilient and pioneering indian company is not clear but one thing is sure - the SFL is no devil in disguise , the SFL has created job opportunities , careers and international visibility to the indian mma community to a level unheard of , the SFL has done what no other company has done for combat sports in India. I come from a long lineage of journalists , my grandfather Solomon Appadurai was a pioneering journo and newspaper owner in Coimbatore Tamil Nadu , if theres one important that I have learnt both from my grandfather and my father it is to convey the truth , the whole truth and nothing but the truth , I leave the rest to you dear readers but for me , I have no shame to say "Long live the SFL !" and Thankyou to Raj Kundra for leaving all the comforts of living in London and moving to India to create a fantastic platform for Indian MMA.

Damages to Raj Kundras car which was parked outside filmalaya studios

Newspapers covered the damages in the headlines

Raj Kundra being interviewed by local tv channels and a window shows the damages to the broadcast equipement on the groundfloor

Some of the spectators who were injured during the clash outside filmalaya studios

For those of you interested to watch an unbiased documentary on the history of MMA in India produced by an independant film maker please see below :