Brave 5 will mark the MMA return of Bharat Kandare after a gap of nearly four years. One of the pioneers of the sport in India, Bharat has always been an influential figure in Indian MMA and has inspired an entire generation of athletes to take up MMA as a career option.
Currently 5-1-0 in his career, Bharat will step into the cage this Sunday to face Egypt’s, Ahmed Fares. Ahead of the fight, The Fan Garage managed to catch up with him for an exclusive interview where he talked about his career so far, how he was offered a fight by UFC, upcoming fight at Brave Combat Federation and much more. You can read the interview below.
TFG: Can you briefly say about how you started your MMA journey? How and when did you start and what are your major achievements so far?
A: Near my house, there was a gym where they used to teach kickboxing. Since I had a background in wrestling and was eager to learn new arts, I went ahead and joined the kickboxing class. Then I had an opportunity where I got offered an MMA fight in Kazakhstan. I had no MMA experience and went ahead and accepted that fight. I lost that one. But I learnt a lot.
I started jiu-jitsu and played many amateur fights. In Thailand, I won the gold in a Jiu Jitsu tournament.
TFG: There were rumours that you got offered a contract offer from UFC. If it is true, what happened?
A: Yes. In 2014, through Somesh (owner of Superhuman Gym) I got an offer from the UFC. We accepted that offer and had our opponent also finalised. He was the semi-finalist of TUF China and the fight was in Macau.
But UFC told us Daniel Isaac threatened the UFC with dire consequences if they sign me as I was on contract with SFL. In spite of giving multiple release requests, SFL did not release me and Daniel didn't let my career progress and wasted precious years of my life. But I will get there sooner or later.
TFG: What are some of the biggest hurdles that you have faced so far in your quest for a career in MMA in India?
A: I gave my 100% to every team, organisation, and institution but have never received the respect. Moreover, I trust people easily and have always been taken advantage of.
At Superhuman Gym I feel at home. The organisation is transparent about contracts and money.
TFG: What are the problems that Indian fighters face now? And what is the status of Indian MMA now?
A: Well, poor infrastructures, lack of teamwork are the primary reasons. I have noticed that Indian fighters leave their original camps when they start getting success. Look at Conor, DC and other champions, they stick with their team no matter what. So it's an attitude issue amongst the fighters too.
Since there is not too much media exposure, there is little the sponsors can offer. SO issues lie at multiple levels.
Indian MMA has progressed a lot. 5 years back nobody even knew what MMA is, but now we have had 2-3 Hindi movies on this subject and it has surely gained momentum.
TFG: What are your immediate and long-term goals?
A: I want to be India's first fighter to compete in the UFC and long term goals like most people are to have the UFC belt around my waist.
TFG: You will be making your Brave debut this weekend, how did you scout your opponent, Ahmed Fares?
A: I have trained hard for this fight, my wrestling is good, my BJJ is good and my striking has improved. I am confident of my skills. I'm not the kinds that will bad mouth my opponent but will make my skills talk. All I can say is that I will beat him up.
TFG: Can you briefly explain how your stay at Jackson’s Wink Academy went?
A: Before going to Jackson wink, I was not confident enough of my skills. I knew I was going to mingle with greats such as Jon Jones, BJ Penn and others. I felt I won’t match up to such great fighters.
When I went there I trained and sparred with those amazingly talented fighters such as Diego Sanchez, BJ Penn, John Dodson and surprisingly put up a great fight against them. I gained massive confidence. Again, the experience at Jackson winks taught me the power of teamwork and team effort. I will not back down now. I will move forward.
TFG: When and how did Brave Combat Federation approach you?
A: Mohd Shahid is a friend of mine. He asked me if I was interested in fighting if Brave launches in India. I said I was interested and got my management involved. They took the deal ahead.
TFG: Do you have any message for the fans out there who would be expecting a strong showing from you?
A: Their brother Bharat will win. I will have crowd support and I’m confident of blowing the Egyptian out. The comments online have motivated me even more.
Mumbai will host the first ever Brave Combat Federation fight night on 23rd April at Dome NSCI.