Real Cage Predator (RCP) made a big impact entry to the Indian MMA scene a few months back.
Headlined by a solid fight between Manjit Kolekar and Bharti Dhoundiyal, RCP Fight Night 1 received rave reviews from the Indian MMA fans and have left them asking for more.
While one might only see success on the surface, there is a story of sweat, blood, and struggles behind the event. And who better to tell this tale than Shashi Sathe, the founder of RCP.
Shashi, a former MMA fighter who have fought around the world recently talked to The Fan Garage about RCP, the state of MMA in India and much more. Here is what he had to say.
About his vision for RCP and how it is different from other promotions like FCC and SFL
When you talk about a vision, you talk about something to do with the sport. What I am looking at is to build a sport; I’m looking at to build lives, I’m not looking at an event; I am not looking at a promotion, I’m not looking at using fighters to actually have some kind of entertainment so that I could get noticed and earn money from it.
You see, there is a very big difference between building a successful promotion and building a fighter’s life or building something for the sport. Giving the fighters a proper stage where they can be seen is what matters.
If you are so interested in promotions, then you should join the Dance and music industry because that does really well on the screen too.
As far as SFL and FCC are concerned, everything is around party, dance, buzzing, fake showoff, and entertainment.
It’s great to be entertained but at the end, you have to care about the fighters. If you have never been a fighter at that level yourself, then how are you going to take care of the fighters?
If you have never been in fights before and never seen competition at different levels, and if you haven’t fought around the world, then you are just trying to have a great event and entertainment from which you want to earn money.
When Sachin Tendulkar, as a kid came out on the cricket field and he started hitting some great shot, people in the audience picked on that name “Sachin Tendulkar” and they wanted to go see his training, they wanted to help him train, they wanted to be his coach, and they wanted to know who his coach is.
I want to do that for the fighters, I want to give them a better career and a better life. So, that’s what makes a sport grow.
So, my vision is to make the sport grow, my vision is not to make an entertainment channel.
Obviously, at the end, if it does not entertain people it’s not worth it. But the priority cannot be entertainment.
Isn’t is sad when the boys and girls that choose MMA are forced to take up a regular 9 to 9 job just because we don’t have an atmosphere in India? We’ve even heard stories about Olympians being forced to sell their medals to get properly living because all the attention goes to cricket.
The sport should be known by how happy the fighters are. You cannot use them to become something and make your own group famous. The success of a sport is the sport itself. If you focus on entertainment, you will have a successful reality show but you are not going to have a successful sport or happy sportsmen.
Difficulty in finding fighters for RCP Fight Night 1
Whenever someone wants to have a tournament, you just throw big advertisements with Bollywood stars or cricketers on the poster and say we are inviting entries. This works but this is not what I wanted.
When you are a fighter and train youngsters, you get to meet a lot of fighters and people. It was difficult. I had to personally request, call people, and I had to do it all with my own efforts. I had to even reach out and discuss contracts to social media. At the end of the day, I wanted to know who I should allow to fight. I needed to know how passionate the people are about training and the sport.
And I gave chances to those people who were passionate and wanted to grow. Everyone who has the heart of a lion should get a chance.
Sometimes, you just find people who have been fighters, but they are not fit anymore and most of them wouldn’t even last a round. I said no to such people as beyond expectations, the focus should be on young fighters. These youngsters might not be known, but they have the heart and have something to give to the sport.
It is difficult especially when you don’t have the funding to put up big advertisement and have only social media to let the word go out. It was tough as most of the fighters do not have promotional agencies. It’s sad that there are these promoters between fighters and a chance to fight. These promoters don’t allow these fighters to fight in other places and improve their career. So it was difficult to extend my hand and get the fighters.
Factors that contributed to the success of RCP 1
When other promotions hold an event, they simply 1) Hire a studio, 2) get some celebrity involved, 3) put up some posters, 4) put up some fighters who said something, have some alcohol, food and that’s it.
I’ve gone for fights all over the world and I know how different the setup is there. The difference between other promoters and me is that I’m a fighter and not some kind of event manager.
During the event, I kept the crowd involved by educating them about MMA. How the fights ends, what the submission is called and so on. When the fight happens in a studio and everyone is more interested in alcohol and party, no one cares about the fight and the sport does not grow. But I wanted people to know how the fighter lost or won. I wanted the people to know it was a TKO and the other was a decision.
This is what we need to do in the events. We need to educate the people that are coming to see this. This worked out for me; the crowd was more interesting when they knew the details. And it was a success because entertainment was not the priority. The crowd heard stuff, they got educated, and thus they realized the beauty of the fight. It was not a shameless “Maramaari” and they appreciated that. If they wanted some party, they could’ve switched on the television but they came to see something and learn something and that’s what happened.
The struggles he faced to set up RCP 1
It was difficult to set up RCP Fight Night 1. Most of the promoters did not give me a fair share and I did not get to train deserving fighters in the big cities as I did not had the backing to take my training and knowledge forward. And this made me return to Nasik.
I had to pour in all my savings to make this fight night a success. Everyone who does such events will get sponsors, they will get advertisement money and this will be used to pay for the lighting, video, doctors and all the other things. But in my case, no one had heard about RCP and no one wanted to sponsor it. So I had to put in my own money and I was lucky enough that the fighters accepted the chance to fight. I was also lucky to have good friends who helped in photography, merchandise, lighting assistance and more. And it’s because of all these help that I managed to pull off the event. It was a dream to do this and I hope the word gets to other fighters and the ball can start rolling.
Tune in for the second part of the Interview where Shashi talks about the state of Indian MMA fighters, bringing in foreign fighters, RCP Fight Night 2 and more.