It wasn’t too long ago that a child in every household wanted to be a star cricketer. “I want to be a bowler like Wasim Akram” or “I want to bat like Saeed Anwar” were common phrases. However, with the deterioration of our national team, those phrases have changed.
Due to a dearth of bona fide sporting heroes, children and teens now look towards other sports to find athletes to idolise. Names like Amir Khan (the boxer), Conor McGregor and Georges St. Pierre (GSP) are more likely to be heard in houses.
With the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), McGregor, GSP and Anderson Silva are household names. Gyms and trainers are prevalent all across Karachi, providing training in the various forms of martial arts that MMA encompasses.
Its brutal nature aside, combat sports like MMA can be quite technical. Being aware of your surroundings and predicting your opponent’s next move trains fighters both physically and mentally.
Training methods are developed, and customised, to appeal to men and women of varying ages seeking to get fighting fit, be it for personal development or professional aspirations. K7 Fitness and Kickboxing Academy is one such gym where Jamil Chandio is hoping to nurture talent that can not only prosper in Pakistan but also challenge globally.
Chandio hopes the establishment of Pakistan Top Team (PTT) and its affiliation with American Top Team, announced at the event, will benefit fighters across Pakistan. “Firstly we have to take care of fighters’ financial woes, so they can focus on training and make us proud,” Chandio reveals.
PTT and its affiliations will help fighters get sponsored to train and compete in tournaments which, Chandio believes, “will highlight the talent,” at Pakistan’s disposal.
In lieu of this ambition K7 recently attracted Marcos “Santa Cruz” Oliveira, during his trip to Pakistan, to come and gauge the talent at its disposal. Oliveira, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo black belt, wrestler and Mixed Martial Artist, has numerous titles to his name.
Apart from sampling, and loving, spicy Pakistani cuisine, the talent on display suitably impressed Oliveira across Pakistan.
Oliveira believes Pakistan is an undiscovered land when it comes to MMA saying, “Pakistan has one of the biggest potential talent pool for MMA in the world.” Coaching talent from across the world, Oliveira is of the impression that Pakistani fighters can win belts.
The presence of PTT will also extend to female trainers as they look to establish themselves, along with the multitude of women in various disciplines across Pakistan. “We have [female] pilots, they’re in the army and other sports, then why neglect this sport?” asks Anza Saqib, a trainer at K7.
Ramisha Mir, who also trains at K7, claims, “We have over a hundred women who train… they range from pre-teens to sixties.” Training under Jamil Chandio for three years, Mir will join Saqib in training women at K7. Whether amateur or professional, Mir believes that PTT, K7 and other such institutions are providing an essential platform for women.
Saqib rues Pakistan’s failure to send female delegations to international sporting events. “We should focus on [sending females to international events], from various sports,” Saqib hopes, adding, “Sports is important for diplomacy.”
It is evident that men and women across Pakistan have taken to combat sports like MMA for personal and professional gains. In Pakistan, where other sports are trying to fill the void left behind by the demise of hockey, squash and domestic cricket, MMA is gaining popularity.
With support from international institutions like American Top Team and stars like Marcos Oliveira, local talent can look to consistently perform in international events. With enough domestic support and recognition, Pakistan has an opportunity to prop new sporting heroes onto absent podiums.
Video by Kamran Nafees