“MAAR” – her family shouted at her as she was enjoying dominance on a full-mount position over Gurleen Chahal. With thirty seconds to go in the clock, the emotions were understandable.
The mental image of an Indian family urging their daughter to beat up someone is quite hard to comprehend. But that was the beauty of mixed martial arts.
Minutes later, when Raj Kundra announced Manjit Sadashiv Kolekar as the winner of SFL Challengers, it changed her life forever. She was now the winner of India’s first ever MMA reality show.
This proved to be the first taste of MMA for Manjit. A former National medalist in Karate and kickboxing, Manjit dreamed of representing India at the Olympics from a young age itself but SFL changed certain things.
John Thomas is the owner of Super fit Combat Gym in Mumbai. Manjit trains there and is one of the founding members as well.
John Thomas: SFL challengers was the first ever foundation for Manjit’s MMA entry. It made her realize the real combat side of her. And today it's quite evident of where and what she has turned out to be.
One month after winning the SFL challengers, Manjit climbed inside the octagon and glared at Ritika Singh, who most people would know for her National Award winning performance in Tamil sports drama "Irudhi Suttru". The referee had to call for a stoppage almost four minutes into the second round. Someone who had a strong standup game, Manjit won the fight by destroying her opponent on the ground.
This was the start.
Eight women stepped into Manjit’s path after this, each trying to get the better of her. Some pushed her to the distance. Others stumbled in front of her vicious power.
Before settling down in Superfit Combat, she traversed through various gyms. Some coaches had shoddy demands while some others exploited or undertreated her. But throughout her struggles; one person gave her the support that she needed, Sadashiv Kolekar, her father.
John Thomas: Her biggest inspiration has been her father Mr. Sadashiv Kolekar. He's the man behind Manjit's success story. He's been with her through thick and thin. She’s a clear reflection of thorough hard work and perseverance.
Hard work paid off. Exactly four years later, Manjit is at the doorsteps of yet another milestone. On September 23, when she steps into octagon to face Brazilian veteran Kaline Medeiros at Invicta 19, she will become the first Indian women to fight at Invicta Fighting championships.
She goes into the fight with a perfect record of 9-0 to her name with the latest win coming against Bharti Dhoundiyal at RCP Fight Night 1.
Bharti Dhoundiyal: I did not know Manjit before our fight at RCP. We became friends fast and she is a great fighter. In fact, she is one of my favorite fighters alongside Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm.
Bharti had taken the fight on a 20-day notice. Aswathi Ezhunnamannil, who was scheduled to face Manjit initially, had to pull off due to a viral infection that got her hospitalized.
Aswathi Ezhunnamannil: We spent some time together at RCP. Her standup and ground game is awesome but I would give her extra marks for her stand up. The superman punches and left hooks are pretty heavy. And she has so much energy that she never gives up. For a girl she’s damn tough. Of course, she trains with guys so we look forward to that kind of toughness in her. Always find short of words for a champ like Manjit. She is an amazing fighter, polite, and down to earth.
The humble nature of Manjit is in fact something that attracts most people towards her.
John Thomas: Manjit’s a brave heart. She is ready to face any challenge when it comes her way in the ring. Off the ring, she's a real sweetheart, a favorite of all of us here at SuperFit Combat. May it be the kids or the veterans, all love her lot for the kind heart and the soft attitude she carries. She's a zero ego fighter. The one many of them out there can learn from.
Shashi Sathe is a former MMA fighter and the founder of Real Cage Predator. For the first event of RCP, he had Manjit Kolekar in the main event.
Shashi Sathe: She is very humble, very quiet; she has respect for her opponent before and after the fight. But when it comes about his fight, she is a big threat for her opponent.
Win or lose, the Invicta appearance of Manjit Kolekar is a historic moment for MMA in India. Her fight will be shown live on UFC Fight Pass, which has its footprint on more than 150 countries spread across 22 different languages. Full Contact Championship (FCC) founder, Prashant Kumar understands the gravity of the situation.
Prashant Kumar : Manjit is an exceptional talent. She has a great record. She has the capability to achieve great heights on the international circuit. Invicta is a big opening for her, and I am really proud that Manjit will represent India at Invicta.
India is a country which often finds its place in the news for the violence against its women. And surprisingly, from a nation of 1.3 billion, the only two medals that India won at Rio Olympics came thanks to its women athletes. Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu were immediately shot into National stardom. Manjit should not be treated any different for what she is doing.
Shashi Sathe: Manjit comes back with a win, gets congratulated, some flowers, and a short article on a sports page. What is the government of our country going to do? How will they help Manjit to make a career? If the athletes that represented the country at Rio got something, then why not Manjit? Manjit has a good future internationally. She just needs all those requirements which are needed to make a career in MMA.
People that know Manjit have already chosen her as an idol and John points out that Manjit has set a milestone that others should follow.
John Thomas: She's destined to change the face of how female conviction appears to us here when it comes to women empowerment. In fact, most of the kids look up to her as a role model here after Mary Kom. The strong conviction she carries, constituted with her disciplined character and the perseverance of never give up attitude makes her a perfect example for the woman of today. We at SuperFit are proud to have her as a family member and look forward to reach much greater heights in the days to come. It's a sunrise for the Indian MMA.
As Manjit climbs into the octagon at Invicta, she might not have the billion hearts that prayed for the Olympians, but the prayers of the few that will cheer for her will be equally deafening. MMA is indeed on the rise in India and Manjit Kolekar has cemented her place in the folklore.
From winning the Super Fight League Challengers to debuting at Invicta, her journey was carefully stitched together with a string of colorful stories. Stories of success, friendship, pain, struggles and many other raw emotions that turned her into the fighter that she is today.
Hours later, the flood lights will shine at Manjit as she stares across Kaline Medeiros and deep inside, every Indian who tunes in, would know that she has earned legendary status in Indian MMA.
The excerpts were taken from exclusive interviews that the fighters and promoters gave to The Fan Garage.