THE UFC IS BETTING BIG on the Asian market, with 'Road to UFC' set to become Zuffa's biggest developmental competition.
The next edition of the tournament-style series will feature eight different weight classes, in both men's and women's divisions, pitting talented young MMA fighters from all over Asia against each other for a chance to earn UFC contracts. And there will be a special opportunity for Indian fighters to make it there as well.
This year, 'Road to UFC' has made a splash with tournaments being held in the men's Flyweight (125 lb), Bantamweight (135 lb), Featherweight (145 lb) and Lightweight (155 lb) divisions. Each weight class featured 8 fighters, who took on each other in a single-elimination tournament. After six successful events, only the grand finale event remains.
Two fighters from India, Pawan Singh Maan and Anshul Jubli, took part in the competition, both at Lightweight. While Pawan was knocked out in the first round, Anshul Jubli (6-0) has made it to the final, where he will take on Indonesia's Jeka Saragih.
Perhaps encouraged by the popularity of the events, UFC now plan to include the following weight classes in the next edition of 'Road to UFC': Men's Flyweight (125 lb), Bantamweight (135 lb), Featherweight (145 lb), Lightweight (155 lb), Welterweight (170 lb) along with Women's Strawweight (115 lb), Flyweight (125 lb) and Bantamweight (135 lb).
Also, with the significant fan reaction to Anshul Jubli's appearance in the competition, the UFC could be looking to include a higher number of Indian fighters in the competition next year. And if things work out favourably, they may even consider having an event in India.
Speaking exclusively to TFG, Somesh Kamra, co-founder of the Superhuman Gym and UFC's chief talent scout in India, revealed,
"At the UFC we do have plans of coming to India. I cannot comment much on that at the moment, but we do have plans."
UFC President Dana White has often mentioned China and India as the two big markets in Asia with great potential for MMA. In the past, UFC signed Bharat Kandare from Mr Kamra's Superhuman Gym, who became the first Indian citizen to fight at the UFC. Now, Anshul Jubli, who was handpicked by Mr Kamra as well, has a chance to become the next Indian fighter if he beats Saragih. Having more MMA fighters appear in the developmental tournaments would play right into UFC's plans to grow the sport in India.
Talking about selecting fighters for the next edition, Somesh Kamra said,
"What would really benefit me in making the selection is if they are coming off a win or two. If any fighters are looking to be considered they may contact me at my email id firstname.lastname@example.org... a lot of good fighters are on the circuit at the moment. There are a lot of fighters from other promotions are speaking to me. We’ll have our list soon."
The next season of 'Road to UFC' is expected to launch in the second half of 2023, and may run into 2024 by the time the finals wrap up.
There have been rumours that Roshan Mainam Luwang (6-3) is among the Indian fighters who are being considered to appear in the prestigious tournament.