Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Pawan Maan Singh is a man of few words. However, even his one-liners demand attention. “Ek punch pad gaya na, usey jannat ka raasta dikha dunga main”He quipped during an interaction with Sportstar.
Although the quirkiness of the comment is somewhat lost in translation, Pawan (professional record: 7-2-1) is talking about how he plans to take down his next opponent, Indonesia’s Jeka Saragih (10-2-0), during their ‘ Road to UFC ‘Lightweight bout on Thursday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. He says if he manages to land just one punch, he will lead Saragih to the stairway to heaven.
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Pawan’s love for combat sport, unlike compatriot and fellow contender for a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) contract Anshul Jubli, didn’t start as a pastime. It began when he got into trouble with the police for getting involved in a road fight. With the hope of siphoning his anger into something more productive, his family decided to make a boxer out of him. However, despite working hard to get to an 80-11 record, Pawan felt his career as a boxer was headed nowhere.
“I quit boxing because there is a lot of politics surrounding the sport in our country,” Pawan says.
He found himself enrolled with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) shortly after. However, even that stint did not last even a quarter of a year. While working as a fitness trainer next, he had the good fortune of making friends with Rajinder Singh.
“After Rajinder made it as an MMA fighter, my brother and I watched him fight one day. He later turned to me and asked, ‘If this guy can do it, why can’t you?’ And yeah, that was it. That pushed me and I started training shortly after, ”the Delhi fighter said.
The 36-year-old got luckier when one of his trainees Dr. Sandeep, who happened to be a jiu-jitsu practitioner, came to his aid. He said, “I was hooked on to the MMA when I first saw it. Back then it was like street fighting to me. Main socha ye TV pe bhi aata hai, mazaa aayega! (The fact that it would be telecast on television got me excited) ”
Pawan started off his Pro MMA career with a second-round win via KO / TKO (Knockout / Technical Knockout) against Srikant Sekhar in Super Fight League (SFL) 4 in October 2012. However, he slumped to a defeat in his next SFL fight. two months later.
Dealing with a loss is very difficult, agrees Pawan. “It is very difficult to recover from a loss. You are in complete shock. ”
Pawan, though, came back strongly to go on to register three back-to-back wins in 2013. In fact, he became the only Indian fighter ever to hold a lightweight and welterweight championship.
Pawan, besides Jubli, who has already qualified after his opponent was unable to fight due to weight management issues, is now one of the two Indians, who will feature in ‘Road to UFC’ in a build-up to UFC 275 on June 10 The reality show-cum-talent hunt will have elimination rounds across four divisions – flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight. The winner of each weight category will be awarded a UFC contract. The semifinal and final rounds are scheduled for later this year.
Maharashtra’s Bharat “Daring” Khandare had become the first Indian athlete to bag a contract with UFC in 2017, but a subsequent positive test for prohibited substances saw him receive a ban from the sport.
“When I came to know about ‘Road to UFC,’ I headed to the club where I train. It is run by my coach Ashwin and called ‘The Warriors’. He has been very supportive. He let 4-5 guys stay back every day to help me spar, ”Pawan says.
He is now training with his coach ahead of the mega-event in Singapore. “I am only training with Ashwin. Baakiyon se karunga toh match ke pehle hi tudwa denge saari … (laughs) (If I train with others, they will break my face even before the event begins) ”
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Pawan was set to go up against China’s Ailiya Muratbek, earlier, but there was a last-minute hiccup. However, he claims he is as ready as ever. “Firstly, I was supposed to play Chinese. Later, I came to know he did not get his visa. My opponent has changed now. So has the plan. The previous one was a southpaw. Had to analyze the new guy’s techniques from scratch.
“If he plays the waiting and standing game for 2-3 minutes, then I’ll show him how to fight. My striking power is immense. I have seen his videos; his punches are not traditional. 9 days to be drunk! (On June 9, I will show him what I am made of!) ”
To be sure, Pawan may not be the most expressive people around, but he lets his punches do all the talking.
HEIGHT: 5’7 ”
WEIGHT: 155.4 lbs
REACH: 70 ”
IDOL: Conor McGregor
FAVORITE GRAPPLING TECHNIQUE: Triangle choke
FAVORITE STRIKING TECHNIQUE: Uppercut punches
ACHIEVEMENTS: Three wins by KO, three by submission (RNC, Kimura, Guillotine), Two first-round finishes, 3-0-1 in his last four clashes
Watch ‘Road to UFC’ live on the Sony Sports Network on June 9 and 10 at 12pm and 3pm IST.