Meet Chaitanya Gavali: International MMA Champion
As everyone knows, the only sports in our country which is recognized is cricket and all other sports means nothing, no matter what amount of hard work, dedication & talent it takes. Oh the horrors of being an athlete in this country - if you are not playing BCCI recognized cricket! Sad are the cases of thousands of willing, capable, hardworking and talented men and women who have to either abandon their sporting dreams midway or just never be competitive enough at the international level due to lack of funds and facilities. One latest example of the same is India's only gold medalist MMA champion Chaitanya Gavali. If you are wondering what MMA stands for - it's Mixed Martial Arts. A form of Cage fighting. It's a free fighting style where you combine various forms of striking and grappling with the goal to beat the sense out of your opponent. The real combat part of the sport has earned it millions of fans across the world and the prized fighters are huge celebrities.
Meet the Cage ruler-Chaitanya Gavali
Coming back to Chaitanya, 26, who has won multiple MMA tournaments and even won the Gold at the latest Warrior Championship held in Penang, Malaysia in September. In last 5 years, he has won four out of the five championships that he has participated in. But recognition evades him. His coach Jitendra Khare of the Evolution Combat Sports Academy, said, “MMA is a combination of all the martial art form. Unlike Judo, it has limited rules. The origin of this sport dates back to several centuries but it has not evolved much in India because it is perceived as 'street fight' and not a legitimate sport." Khare started training the MMA athlete five years back in 2010. "You know what is funny? Athletes all across Asia fear Chaitanya whereas in India they don't even know him. Awareness and acceptance will take time but we are hopeful that it will happen," said Khare. Chaitanya's family runs a shoe shop in Kandivali, Mumbai but he doesn't want to join the business. He want's to fight more and put India's name on the global MMA map. "When my mother asked me to join the family business, I knew in my gut that I was not meant to do it. So I asked her to give me one year to prove my worth. Now that I have established myself internationally, she can't stop bragging about me to her friends. She has saved all my videos in her phone which she shows every one she meets," he tells.
Now MMA is a combat sport, which requires the ultimate levels of fitness, strength and training; aka it's costly. His team is currently struggling for finances to buy the expensive supplements needs and the training equipment. His next fight is scheduled for November 18 in China but his team is falling short of sponsorship. Though MMA is one of the most popular combat sports in the world, it's not an Olympic event and in many countries, including India, it is not considered a legit sport. That means the govenrment will not support Chaitanya financially.
"Though the Olympics is cutting down on the number of sports to ensure that the tournament is manageable, the uproar MMA has caused worldwide is going to take it places. You need a lot mental strength for this sport. You fight on the streets for survival, whereas this sport is purely driven by passion," explained Khare.