Indian MMA

Bhabajeet Choudhury: How a village boy became one of India’s biggest MMA stars

More than two decades back, when Bhabajeet Choudhury was making his baby steps into the world of combat sports, the concept of a ‘Martial Arts’ Gym was new to Assam.

People related gyms to places where men went to build up muscles and nothing more. So when the young Bhabajeet wanted to take up martial arts to quench his thirst for risk, he had no other option than to settle for what his small village had to offer: open training spaces and fields.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: I’m from a very small village which did not have a big background for sports or martial arts. When I started around 20 years back, there wasn’t this concept of a martial arts ‘Gym’. Not only in my village, I think that the concept was not there in Assam and India as well back then. So we used to train in the fields, we used to run, and that’s how it all started. We used to train under an open gym where we continued to train even if it was raining.

This is how it all started for the Indian MMA star. He used to run across the fields and train through the rains: one traditional martial art at a time.

The lack of facilities in his village was not going to stop Bhabajeet as well. Guwahati was 108 Kilometres away from his village. At the same time, it was also the only place that had proper punching bags at that time.

On a daily basis, Bhabajeet used to take this long trip to Guwahati just so that he could practice on the punching bags. This determination is what proved to be the foundation for his rise as a martial arts star. 

Bhabajeet Choudhury- The Wushu Days

The first big break for him came thanks to Wushu. It was almost five-years into his combat sports journey that Bhabajeet took up the sport. And as any other combat sports athlete would dream to do, he scaled through the competition and landed in the national tournament within no time.

His first nationals, however, gave a taste of defeat in his mouth. This served as motivation. Bhabajeet moved to Guwahati to get things back in order and started working on his Wushu Skills. He spent an entire year to get better, similar to a phase that he later had in his SFL stint.

Once he was confident enough, Bhabajeet was back competing at the nationals, exactly a year after his loss. This time around, he went back to Assam with the gold medal. The funny thing is: It didn’t stop there.

He dominated the National Wushu scene for the years that followed and started piling up medals in the nationals. He also clinched a Medal for India in the Asian Wushu Championship that was held in Vietnam. It was during this phase that he also landed a job in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and moved to Delhi for his Wushu training.

The call from Daniel Isaac

The brilliance that Bhabajeet showcased in the Wushu scene brought him under the radar of Daniel Isaac, who invited the Assamese star to Nashik for the first-ever Super Fight League camp.

And there was no looking back from this point. Although he initially decided to stay back in Delhi to train, Bhabajeet soon moved to Nashik so that he can improve his BJJ skills and in 2012, he made his SFL debut and that too in style.

He got the win via a spinning back kick against Chiranjit Singh in the fight and in the second fight also, he stopped his opponent to make it 2-0 in his resume.  

Bhabajeet Choudhury: SFL was a memorable journey and I still miss the platform. People might have different opinions on SFL but it was the first company that put MMA on the map in India

There were roadblocks too. Since Mixed Martial Arts was not an Olympic sport, his department was hesitant to give him leave for the fights that he had in SFL. This forced him to quit his job and focus solely on Martial Arts.

The Shyam Prasad Rivalry

The Third fight in SFL for Bhabajeet came against Shyam Prasad. It was the main event of SFL 13 and the Super Fight League Welterweight Title was also on the line. It ended in the second round when Shyam locked in a rear-naked choke and secured the submission. Just like his loss back in the Wushu Nationals, this was something that struck a chord with Bhabajeet.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: The fight is memorable for me because it was the first time that I lost in MMA. He is a friend of mine, but still, you get that feeling of losing in your heart right. During the first fight, I did not know anything about BJJ. After that, I put in a lot of hard work. I went outside India to train and all. When I lost in the first fight, there were personal problems also going on in my life. It was on TV and I could not perform well, so altogether, the loss was not something that sat well with me. In the rematch, I gave my everything.

Five long years is what it took him to get a rematch against Shyam. This time around, the tables turned and Bhabajeet landed a vicious knockout in the first round.

Between his first and second fight with Shyam, Bhabajeet had secured three wins and suffered a loss via disqualification due to illegal kick. And since he was knocking all his opponents outs, SFL also gave him a nickname ‘Stretcher’.

He still holds his fights with Shyam close to him. Even though he is a good friend of the MMA star from Kerala, he is open to a trilogy fight to settle the score.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: Definitely, if Shyam is ready and if someone organizes it, I’m ready for the trilogy fight. He is a good friend of mine but it’s the sport, after all, I need to fight, he also needs to fight. So if he is ready and if someone organizes, yes, why not.

Bidang MMA 

The stint in Super Fight League was an eye-opener for Bhabajeet. When he looked around, he understood that there is a problem that deserved to be addressed at the earliest.

This is what made him go back to Assam and open Bidang MMA and Fitness. Bidang translates to Arena which is exactly what he wanted it to be: A platform to groom the fighters from North East.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: When I was fighting in SFL, I realized that there were only a few fighters from the North East. The issue was that fighters from North East were not getting a platform or guidance. So I left Nashik and came back to Guwahati and set up a gym there. Bidang means Arena where the fight happens and I started training fighters from North East. I initially started the gym with limited resources. The response was so great. And I felt great that I was doing something for my state. Now, it has turned into one of the most famous gyms in Guwahati and we are planning to open branches outside Guwahati as well.

And when one of his students goes out and gets a win or a medal, it evokes a sense of happiness in him: something that is beyond words. He strongly believes that the fighters from North East can take over if they are given the platform and opportunities.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: It feels great to see my students fight. In fact, I feel the happiest when someone from my gyms goes out to fight and gets a win or a medal. And there are many good fighters here too, they are performing well. I just feel a bit sad that the fighters from North East are not getting the chances that they deserve. They just need a platform and opportunities now to prove themselves.

The process of handling everything together did get to him at one point. After his BRAVE CF 30 fight to be exact. Bhabajeet posted on his Facebook that he was retiring. He, however, has no plans of doing that anytime soon and says that he is ready to fight a few more years.

Bhabajeet Choudhury: The thing is I was not getting proper time to train for fights as my gym is currently working in a full-fledged manner. In the present Indian situation, it’s hard to just survive on MMA fights only, to be frank. So I was already having some businesses on the side along with my MMA career. So with all these, it had become hard for me to take out time for the fight camp. I was a bit frustrated with all these but I’ve made up my mind to have a few more years in fighting and I’m ready for the same.

From being someone that trained in the fields under the rain to becoming one of the top MMA stars in India, Bhabajeet Choudhury has indeed come a long way. And the best part is: His story is far from over. Even when he hangs up his gloves, his legacy will be carried forward by the generation of fighters that are being brought up at Bidang MMA.