New Delhi: China has enlisted a squad of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters into the People’s Liberation Army last week, days after its stand-off with India at the Line of Actual Control escalated and resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers.
While it isn’t clear yet if the MMA fighters will be deployed at the LAC, their recruitment into the PLA is being perceived as important, since the deadly clash in Galwan Valley was a hand-to-hand combat.
Some reports have also said China reinforced its troops near the Indian border with the MMA fighters as well as mountain climbers shortly before the Galwan clash.
ThePrint analyses what MMA fighters could bring to the battlefront.
MMA or cage fighting, as it is sometimes called, is a full-contact combat sport which includes striking, ground fighting and grappling. It combines various combat sports and martial arts from around the globe, such as Brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, kick-boxing, Japanese and Chinese martial arts, as well as traditional grapple-based wrestling, lending it a unique character.
The sport originated in China and Japan — in the 19th century, it was originally seen as an ‘egalitarian’ form of fighting, an unarmed combat where fighters with different styles were put in the cage. There were virtually no rules formulated for this style of combat till the 1980s and 1990s, when it began competing with professional boxing and wrestling in the US under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, based out of Sweden, is its international governing body. The first IMMAF World Championships was held in Las Vegas, USA, in 2014. But this is only for amateur MMA fighters, not professionals.
In China, the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation (RUFF) was the first Chinese MMA organisation sanctioned by the General Administration of Sport. It hosted its first national MMA event in 2011, which has been a regular event since then.
Other MMA championships in China include the ‘Real Fight Championship’, which has produced three events in Henan and Beijing.
India got a recognised MMA governing body only in 2018, called ‘MMA India—National Sports Federation’. It is affiliated to the IMMAF.
However, as far back as 2012, the country had made forays into the MMA world with the launch of ‘Super Fight League’, formed by actor Sanjay Dutt and businessman Raj Kundra.
MMA is now a sport with a growing base in India — the Super Fight League alone has had 67 live televised events, with over 100 million views to date. It has produced at least 50 live televised events broadcast on various channels like Colors, Neo Prime, ESPN Star Sports, MTV India and YouTube.
Enbo Fight Club
According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, 20 MMA fighters from the Enbo Fight Club in Sichuan province have been recruited to constitute the ‘Plateau Resistance Tibetan Mastiffs’, based in Tibet’s capital Lhasa.
The Enbo Fight Club is known for preparing MMA fighters for international tournaments, most notably the UFC. It trains more than 400 young fighters every year for these championships, and many of them are orphans.
Back in 2017, the group found itself in a controversy after a documentary film detailed the functioning of the group — it showed boys as young as 12 fighting each other in a caged arena surrounded by a crowd.
The founder of the club, in an interview, said children who are orphaned and “left behind” are trained in MMA by the club. But those who do not meet the club’s high standards are sent back to the care of the state.
The documentary had triggered a debate about whether the club enhanced opportunity for the children, or merely exploited their helplessness. Police and civil authorities subsequently started an investigation into the club, following which many of the young boys in the club insisted that they be allowed to stay, saying it offers them a chance at a better life.
Role of MMA fighters in PLA
The primary objective of the MMA fighters recruited by the PLA would be to help border patrol troops and special forces in hand-to-hand combat training.
“If the country needs us, the Enbo Fight Club will wholeheartedly complete more challenging tasks. As for whether [our fighters] took part in the conflict a few days ago (with Indian troops in Galwan Valley), don’t ask me, I didn’t ask,” an owner of the Enbo Fight Club was quoted as saying.
Lieutenant General Wang Haijiang of the PLA reportedly said the Enbo Fight Club recruits would “greatly raise the organisation and mobilisation strength of troops”, as well as their “rapid response and support ability”.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.