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India’s ‘King of Lions’ vows to seize UFC opportunity

There are 1.4 billion people in India, but none are currently on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) books.

Anshul “King of Lions” Jubli thinks he’s about to change that.

The 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter takes his unbeaten 5-0 record to Singapore and Asia’s inaugural “Road to UFC” this week.

The tournament is designed to unearth the region’s untapped potential and Jubli believes he will win – and the floodgates will open for Indian fighters to join the world’s leading MMA promotion.

“Going to the UFC is the dream,” Jubli, who fights in the lightweight division, told AFP.

“I can promise you that once I sign, in four years, you will see many, many Indian fighters following me. This is just the beginning.”

There was once an Indian-born fighter with a UFC contract, featherweight Bharat Khandare, who in 2017 lost his only fight and was therefore released.

Jubli was born in the scenic mountain town of Uttarkashi in northern India, and her father was in the Indian Army’s Border Security Force.

Young Jubli ended up accompanying him on assignments around the country, before deciding to follow in his footsteps and enlist.

That’s when Jubli’s life changed forever.

“I started learning MMA because I knew it would help me with my army physicals, but soon realized that it was MMA I wanted to do, not join the army” , said Jubli.

“My dad is pretty happy but I know my mum is still hoping that I’ll quit and become a doctor or a lawyer. There’s no way that will happen.

“I’m strong, I have all the skills and I’m only getting better.”

– ‘Pressure cooker’ –

After a 13-0 run through the Indian amateur MMA ranks, Jubli turned professional in 2019 and has been undefeated ever since.

Road to UFC is the first edition of an Asian version of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter series that has unearthed 11 future champions, including current welterweight king, Nigerian-American Kamaru Usman.

It offers a window of opportunity for 32 fighters from as far away as India and China, Indonesia and the Philippines, nations that are among the world’s major population centers but relatively underrepresented on the world stage. in a sport that presents itself as the fastest growing. on the planet.

Jubli will be joined in the lightweight tournament by compatriot Pawan Maan (7-2-1). This week’s winners will compete in other events later in the year and, if they continue to win, will have the chance to earn a contract with the UFC.

“You have to imagine that if you just take India and China, the billions of people they have there, then there must be some incredible talent out there,” the chairman of the agency told AFP. the UFC, Dana White.

“This tournament is a good way to gain experience for these kids. Put them in a pressure cooker situation and see how they do.”

– ‘Ready to rock’ –

Road to UFC kicks off at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Thursday as part of the build-up to Sunday’s UFC 275 in the city-state.

The dual world championship schedule includes the light heavyweight clash between Brazilian champion Glover Teixeira and Czech Jiri Prochazka, and the women’s flyweight title fight between Kyrgyzstan-born Valentina Shevchenko and Brazilian Taila Santos .

There is also a return to action for former Chinese strawweight world champion Zhang Weili.

This is the first time the UFC has held title fights in Southeast Asia.

Jubli is still a long way from that level, but believes when he steps into the cage for his fight against Japan’s Sho Usami (4-1) on Friday, he will show that the UFC is where he belongs.

“I think I’m the best fighter in India,” Jubli said.

“I really, really believe that I am the best. I will win this fight and I will win this tournament.

“I’m very mentally prepared, I’m physically prepared and I’m ready to rock.”