Indian MMA

Imkongsunep Jamir opens up about his MMA career so far, Nagaland and much more

The Warrior culture of Nagaland is rich and deep-rooted. In fact, long back, there used to be tribes in the state that went to war and kept skulls of their beheaded enemies as trophies.

While the headhunting days are long gone, the warrior spirit that runs through the people in Nagaland is still burning brightly. Imkongsunep Jamir is no different.

Fighting out of The Combat Academy – Nagaland, the MMA star built up an impressive amateur record of 9-1 including a win in the IMMAF World Championship before turning professional last year with a win in X1 International. Here’s his story:  


The Journey as an Amateur Fighter

Imkong first got the taste of combat sports when he joined The Combat Academy –Nagaland in 2013 in hope of shedding the extra pounds that he had on him.  

Imkongsunep Jamir: Overweight and unfit at 85kgs with all the bad habits of a young adult. I was never into martial arts or any sort of combat sport; I had never even watched a UFC or Pride fight when Victor Angami forced me to join a gym with him. So I joined The Combat Academy with the sole purpose of losing weight. It was my coach, Khriemelie Metha, who motivated me to pursue a professional career in MMA as he noticed me developing enthusiasm and skillset for it.  

A year later, Imkong was ready to step into the amateur MMA scene. He was scheduled to make his amateur MMA debut in Nagaland itself but things weren’t in favour of the Featherweight star that time. He suffered an injury just before the fight which forced him to sit out of the event that he was looking forward to.

Imkongsunep Jamir: It all started in 2014 when we (TCA) were training for the first-ever Yoddha Fighting Championship event. It was here in Dimapur, Nagaland. Khriemelie was one of the co-founders of Yoddha FC and so you can imagine the excitement that was buzzing around that event. The first of its kind MMA in the entire northeast added to that local fighters representing. Photo-shoots had been done, billboards were put up, newspaper adverts were out, friends and family were called and then I got hurt. 1 week before the event I injured my knee during the last sparring session and had to be pulled out of the card. I was out all of that year.

What didn’t happen in Nagaland, happened in Bangalore a year later: Imkong made his amateur MMA debut. While he doesn’t remember much of the fight which he eventually won, his teammates always remind him of how horrible it was. He then went on to secure multiple dominant wins including two tournaments wins before he made his international debut at Ultimate Beatdown in Malaysia.

Imkongsunep Jamir: I was fighting Tapology’s third or second-ranked amateur bantamweight in Asia at that time, he was training out of Evolve MMA. I lost the first round 9-10, coach and me did some adjustments and I dominated the 2nd and 3rd. It was also the first time I cut weight.

Although he secured 9 wins in his amateur MMA career, the most memorable part of Imkong’s journey as an amateur fighter came in Bahrain where he was choked out by Japan's Daisuke Murayama. Imkong was fresh off his win against his Czech Republic counterpart and was expecting to keep his amateur record intact when he fought Daisuke.

Imkongsunep Jamir: The most memorable memory is when I got choked out during my fight with Japan's Daisuke, he was a BJJ brown belt and I made a game-plan error and he made me pay for it. It's the only time I’ve lost 9-1. I had worked hard and prepared perfectly for it, losing didn’t feel good.


Turning Professional and carrying the Shawl of his Tribe

Imkongsunep Jamir made his professional debut back in October 2019 when he fought George Lalmuanawma at the main event of X1 International fight night in Dimapur. He secured a unanimous decision victory in the fight and kick-started his professional career just like he started his amateur journey. But the difference this time around was: he made his debut in front of his people in Nagaland – Something that Imkong holds close to his heart.

Imkongsunep Jamir: Many might not know but we have many tribes that makeup Nagaland and each tribe has its own unique shawl. I wear my tribe’s shawl when I compete as does all from my team with their respective tribe colours. We are a team, we are in this together. It is our sign of unity, Naga and proud. After my fights abroad I’ve had people walk up to me and ask me about the shawls and I tell them about Nagaland and how India is culturally so much more vast and beautiful than many believe. At the world championships I represented my country, I also represented my people.

The support that comes with it is something that fuels the fire that is raging inside the Naga Warrior.

Imkongsunep Jamir: Whether a 100 cheer my name or a 100 jeer my name my effort doesn’t change, I will still work hard but the satisfaction I get, the pride I feel when my people support me is immeasurable. I would like to thank all those that have supported me and also those that have doubted and critiqued me. Continue doing the same; keep me in your prayers. Miles and miles to go before I sleep.

And Imkong feels that there is a lot of potential in Nagaland and North East in general.

Imkongsunep Jamir: There is lots of potential and upcoming MMA talent from the Northeast in general. Training with them daily, I first hand know how good the guys coming up at TCA are but to take over the MMA scene in India it won’t come down to talent alone. I honestly feel anyone from anywhere can be a top MMA fighter in the country if only he or she is willing to sacrifice and work hard to reach the top.

The thing is, one can only reach the top by fighting against the best and Imkong is aware of this as well and that’s why, when we asked who he wanted to test his skill set against, he pointed towards one of the most notable pound-for-pound Indian MMA fighters out there. And he has a clear reason for this as well.

Imkongsunep Jamir: Before anyone goes up in arms and start proclaiming that they’ve never heard of me, never heard of my team, that I’m a nobody, I have no record etc. This is not a call out, you ask who would I like to test myself against? I would love to get inside the cage with Kantharaj Agasa. My 1 loss was against a ground specialist I want to see how much I’ve learnt from that.

Whether or not Imkong will get a shot at Kantharaj is a debate for another day. Imkong also isn’t bothered who he fights next but if he is sure of one thing, it’s his urge to get a win on his resume. For Imkong, it is deep-rooted to the warrior culture of his people.

Imkongsunep Jamir: Not very long ago our forefathers were head hunters, of course, it was brutal and barbaric and I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone today. But it took a lot of balls and martial prowess to thrive in those days. Similar to our forefathers, to thrive inside the cage today you need a lot of balls and martial prowess. For me getting my hand raised at the end is the same as taking a head back home to my village. As it is said in Ao, my tribe’s dialect “ni ah tebur ah, arung” very simply “I am also a man, let's go”.