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Blood, guts and glory at Manipur Fight League; Manipur witnesses first fight nights

IMPHAL | May 16 : Pounding punches, kicks to the chests and head, vicious uppercuts, knee-cuts, submission holds all joined with blood and sweat, stretchers carrying out injured fighters, Iboyaima Sumang Lilla Sanglen at Palace compound saw the first every mixed martial arts fight night.

Commencing from Tuesday, the fighters mostly in their teens and early twenties gave a vicious yet fantastic performance tonight and the crowd cheered on with each connected punch, kick and choke holds. Outside the cage; Kousillu (kick) ,Thinjillu (punch) - roared the crowd as sinews twisted in the sport which is a full-contact combat sport that allows strikes and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts.

“Manipuri fighters are too good, they are warriors, they are different from fighters of other states, Manipuri fighters respect the cage, respect the opponent, these are signs of a warrior. The fighters of other states are simply fighters,” said Shihan Aninde Sengupta, one of the judges of the competition, he is based in Kolkotta. He added that the bouts are the best that he has ever witnessed in the northeast.

Frank Nandeibam from Kongba Nandeibam Leikai is the organiser of the Manipur Fight League. He trains some 50 youths from different communities in his gymnasium Kanglei Mixed Martial Arts Club at Wankhei Ningthem Pukhri Mapal. “I was exposed to this sport in 2011, I took part in an illegal cage fight in Mumbai then,” he stated adding that his objective is to promote the sport and bring out international fighters from the state.

One of the fighters, Tondonba Asem,22, from Ahallup had participated in an international bout held at Thailand. “I am basically a Muay-Thai fighter but have been training as a mixed martial artist for the last one year. My aim is to contest in the Ultimate Fight Championship held in the United States,” he said while putting on a glove. “The UFC has a cash prize amounting to millions of dollars too,” he added.

The fight nights saw women competitors who are equally as combative as their male counterparts. A bout tonight saw a woman fighter being carried out in a stretcher after passing out from a choke hold. “My parents have no issues about me taking up this sport, I trained in boxing since 2009, my parents support me,” said Surbala Laishram, 22, a resident of Khangabok. She took on three rounds consisting of five minutes with her opponent gaining advantage. But, she won by a knockout in the third round with a choke hold.

One of the most electrifying and brutal fight was between fighter Golmei and Sanajaoba under the 51 kg category. Golmei was caught in a knee-strangle hold by Sanajaoba in the first round, but Golmei maneuvered and pounded his opponent with several knee strikes. Sanajaoba was bloodied and had to be taken to the hospital. He raised his gloves when being taken out on a stretcher from the cage exhibiting his sportsmanship.

An international fight night is going to be scheduled in October this year where fighters from outside the country will participate, according to organizer Frank. The bout winners won title belts of Manipur Fight League.

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