Sumeet Khade has not fought professionally for more than two years. But the 25-year old MMA Fighter from Mumbai made some huge strides during the time period. Currently signed with the Superhuman Gym, Sumeet had a spell at Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque where he managed to train with some big names like Jon Jones, BJ Penn, Holly Holm and many others.
Sumeet is now in India after an eventful stay in the United States and we caught up with him for a chat. The Fan Garage's Ratish Menon managed to catch up with him for an exclusive interview and here is what he had to say.
From Karate to MMA and the impact of Sultan
I had been training in Karate since I was 8 years old. At that time, there wasn't much awareness about MMA in India. I got my black belt in Shorin-Ryu and participated in Karate tournaments in Japan, following which I got into kickboxing.
I was looking for a varied learning experience in martial arts when I came across MMA and got to know how it is an amalgamation of all these different disciplines. Two years after I began training, I got my first break when I competed under the FCC banner in Mumbai, where I won my debut fight.
Following that, as I stayed in the sport and went on to fight in different promotions, my interest in the sport grew as it is unique and the learning never really stops.
Firstly, my friends and family had no idea what MMA was and when I showed them the videos online, they thought of it to be dangerous and even illegal (laughs).
But when I educated them on the rules, regulations and the weight classes involved, their perception changed a lot. Till about recently, not a lot of my friends knew much about MMA as they would term what I do as wrestling, boxing etc. But the release of 'Sultan' a couple of months ago has begun changing things a bit as through the movie, MMA has gained some level or popularity.
The training facilities and strategies in the United States
To be honest, the comparison is not even fair as India lags behind a lot when it comes to the training and facilities available overseas. I was there for 6 months and saw firsthand how detailed the whole planning and strategizing aspect is of MMA over there.
Their approach varies for a 3-round fight from a 5-round fight and so much attention is paid towards the stamina, strength and other important aspects of the game that the idea of fighting is more geared towards balance than all-out raw energy.
How the Jackson-Wink works and learning the ground game
When I had been to the Jackson-Wink gym, I went in with a totally different set of expectations. I was expecting all the gym members to be stand offish but was extremely surprised by how friendly they were. Be it Jones, BJ Penn or Holly Holm, they all were super friendly and extremely helpful towards me and never gave out any of those superstar vibes.
The coaches too were extremely patient and taught me numerous things that I know is going to help me in my game, going forward.
The gym is divided into two sections based on weight classes – the lightweights who are 170 lbs. & below and the Heavyweights who are above 170 lbs. Given that, I did get a chance to train and spar with both B J Penn and Holly Holm.
Penn was scheduled to fight an opponent who was the similar frame as me, so he called me to spar with him. During the session, he took me down and we were working on ground positions and he was extremely helpful with his advice on it.
Holly Holm too was very generous with her experience and striking knowledge, given how senior she is in the striking game when compared to me.
Learning the ground game
I feel my game has changed a whole lot following my stint there. Because I was from a Karate background, I had to really focus on adapting my game for MMA as a lot of things such as hand positioning and stance in both sports are completely different.
My ground game, takedown timing and Jiu Jitsu defense all got better from the time spent there. On the striking front, I was primarily a counter-striker, but now I have worked on throwing combinations and then set up counters.
I also benefitted from having a personal coach who held mitts and taught me in the areas I was weak in. Overall, I learned and improved on many things but that was only the start and it has to get better going forward.
His next fight and completing post-graduation
Nothing has been finalized yet, but we are hoping to get something done in the next couple of months. It's been over two years since I had my last fight and though I have 7 fights under my belt, I feel like I haven't faced the level of competition I should have until now.
I also am completing my post-graduate studies in the meantime and will be ready when a fight comes through. We are focusing on getting fights overseas in other promotions
MMA in India and importance of fan support
As of now, it's still ways behind but the potential is there. The number of events has gone up and the efforts are definitely there with shows such as Body Power and the upcoming Times of India event.
But within the next 3-4 years, the growth should be visible and I am sure MMA as a sport will get to the next level in India.
I just want to say to the fans that it is your support that is needed for MMA to grow in India. Not just us but the whole world is waiting for that first Indian athlete to make waves in the UFC and here is hoping that day isn't too far away.