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How Indian MMA fighter Surbala Laishram made history with a broken cheekbone

LockerRoom Team
28 March 2022

Indian MMA fighter Surbala Laishram made history last day at the 2021 GAMMA World MMA Championship by becoming the first Indian fighter to win a Gold Medal at the GAMMA World Championships.

Hailing from Manipur, which has produced some of the biggest names in Indian Combat Sports including the irreplaceable Mary Kom, the 23-year-old Surbala’s triumph was nothing short of magical.

The start with Taekwondo and KOI Combat Academy

The combat sports journey of Surbala started more than a decade back when she tried out Taekwondo. Though she soon took a gap to concentrate on her studies, she made a triumphant return with kickboxing and started piling up national and international medals in the competition.

The turning point for Surbala, however, came when she transitioned into MMA. Her first taste of the sport came at KMMAC in Manipur after which she moved to KOI Combat Academy in Bangalore under Coach Vishal Seigell and Indian MMA star Roshan Mainam. She cleared the selection trials in flying colors and got herself a place in the team.

Under the guidance of Vishal and Roshan, Surbala started making huge leaps which saw her win gold at the Bengaluru Open MMA Championship. The Manipuri fighter also secured a huge win in the X1 International Women’s Fight Night 2 where she outclassed a more experienced Reshma Sakpal.

The injury that slowed her down

Following her good run in the Indian domestic circuit, Surbala managed to earn herself a spot in the Indian team for the 2019 IMMAF World Championship. Surbala went up against Daniela Hernandez of Mexico in a first-round showdown in Bahrain. The World Championship dreams of Surbala, unfortunately, were short-lived due to an incident that turned her career upside down.

The Indian had a strong start in the fight but picked up an injury in the first round which slowed her down. Despite the injury, she pushed the fight to the distance and suffered a decision loss.

Later, it was revealed that she injured her MCL, ACL, and Meniscus which forced her to undergo surgery and ruled her out of action for more than two years.

The Comeback and the Historic Medal

A crowdfunding campaign was set up to aid the financial requirements of Surbala's surgery while a mammoth portion of the same was footed by her team. Amidst this crisis, Surbala continued to upgrade her skills with support from Coach Vishal and after the long gap, she was cleared to compete for the GAMMA World Championship which was scheduled to happen in Amsterdam from 23 March 2022 to 27 March 2022, almost three years after the fight that injured her.

Over the course of Surbala’s recovery, Coash Vishal had been vocal on social media about how Surbala’s comeback is going to be stronger than the setback. The GAMMA World Championship was an apt platform for backing up the claims and Coach Vishal and Surbala did just that.

She started off her campaign against Ainazik Rustambak of Kyrgyzstan in the 115 LBS Striking MMA category and delivered a striking clinic through which she took home a decision victory. The win against Ainazik guaranteed a silver medal for Surbala but she had other plans.

On 27 March 2022, the Indian MMA fighter went up against Tomiris Zhussupova of Kazakhstan in the finals of her category. In a fight that saw both fighters having their moments, Surbala managed to outclass her Kazakh counterpart and secured a decisive victory.

The win made Surbala Laishram the first Indian MMA fighter to win a Gold Medal at the GAMMA World Championship. Earlier, India had secured silver medals at the GAMMA World Championship but this was the first time that someone brought home the Gold Medal.

ALSO READ | GAMMA World Championship 2021: India finish with 11 Medals, Surbala wins Gold

This was the lone Gold Medal for India in the campaign which saw the team pick up a total of 11 Medals and finish 6th in the final medal standings.

The image of a teary-eyed Surbala Laishram standing on the podium while the National Anthem of India played in the background is something that will be etched into Indian MMA history forever.

After it was all done and dusted. Coach Vishal revealed in an exclusive statement that Surbala fought through two fractures in her cheekbone to win the gold medal: proof of the warrior blood that runs through the Warrior Princess.


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