September 3, 2011, was a milestone date for Mixed Martial Arts in Asia. It was the day when ONE Championship rolled out their debut event ONE: Champion vs. Champion headlined by Eduard Folayang and A Sol Kwon.
The event which happened at the Singapore Indoor Stadium had twenty fighters on the fight card and one among them was India’s Susovan Ghosh.
Joining Evolution MMA and Meeting Jitendra Khare
It was through Bruce Lee that Susovan Ghosh discovered combat sports. Inspired by the movies, he decided to take up what was available for him at that time: Karate.
Three and a half years later, Susovan realized that the moves taught in the traditional martial arts might not come in handy in a real-life street situation. This proved to be a trigger for him to switch to Krav Maga. Then again, Susovan wanted to mix things up after some time and ended up finding Mixed Martial Arts while surfing on the internet.
“I was reading up on the internet and that's when I found MMA and exactly at that point of time I had moved to Bombay to do my MBA. I was just surfing the net and I realized that Jitendra Khare at that point of time had opened up his MMA gym which was called Evolution. So I gave him a call one of the days I said listen I want to train in MMA so can I come over and try out so he said “Yeah, Yeah, sure just come over”. That's where the whole story started and you know I discovered MMA and I’ve been hooked ever since,” he recalls.
The association with Jitendra Khare and Evolution is still going strong for Susovan. He is currently the most experienced member of Team Relentless, something which he feels happened organically over the years through a bond of passion.
“Jitendra Khare, Vicky sir and I, we just stayed in the sport for a while that's all. And I guess if you are just passionate about something and you just stick to it you reach places that’s all I have to say,” he said.
The Lil Tiger that made history
After finding the sport at Evolution MMA, Susovan has been actively competing for more than a decade now. It was on the day after one of his birthdays that he had his first fight. The short notice fight was offered by Jitendra Khare and although Susovan did not sleep well on the night prior to the fight, he ended up winning the fight.
The biggest leap of Susovan’s fighting career, however, came in 2011 when he fought in the first-ever ONE Championship Fight card. He was the first Indian fighter to compete in the promotion and although it ended in a loss, it was a milestone moment for Indian MMA.
“I had never fought in front of a big crowd. So it was quite a big jump for me from fighting at Gym Wars to fighting at ONE Championship but I think it’s like I got pushed into the deep end of the pool and that really helped because nothing that I did after that could ever match the magnitude of that experience you know all those people all that adrenaline you know the pressure, everything feels like much smaller after you do that. So I think yeah, that was a really good start and a good experience for me,” he recalls the experience.
After his ONE Championship fight, Susovan competed at multiple events spanning across India and abroad and returned to ONE Championship again with ONE Warrior Series in 2020. A lot has changed over the years in terms of competition and Susovan went through a lot of experiences as well which redefined his life. But it was a one month camp in AKA Thailand that proved to be a turning point. Spending time at the gym motivated him to give up his financial consulting career and take up combat sports full-time.
“I was working for about 5 years and I realized that I'm enjoying my work less and less and I'm enjoying training more and more. So till I reached a point where you know one of the days I went to the office and I was like I can't do this anymore, just my heart is not in this kind of work and at that time I was looking at a lot of things - watching a lot of YouYube videos on motivation, on you know taking risks and all. Like I said at that point of time we also went to AKA Thailand and so all of that just kind of made me realize that this is what I want to do. The decision I would say at that point of time I just wanted to do it, take a risk and see how it goes you know so yeah that's how it happened,” he recalls.
The changing times in Indian MMA
When Susovan gave up his job and took up combat sports full-time, the Indian MMA circuit wasn’t as active as it is today. It was a big risk but over the past decade, due to people like him, the sport has grown in the country. However, certain eye-openers still persist.
“I believe all over the world it's only maybe the top 10% who can make a living out of fighting alone most other people they’re making a living from training other people. You know and sometimes even that is a hard thing to balance especially when you have a fight coming up and you know you have to run a class and you’re exhausted after a hard session because its fight camp and everybody is trying to kill you and then you just don't want to run a class after that. Also because this is a new sport there isn’t so much money. So I believe a lot of fighters, they struggle to make money doing just this. So a lot of fighters have to stay. You know we are fitness coaches; they take these cardio kickboxing classes instead of just being able to focus on MMA. Even I have faced that, so that's something that you have to be prepared for,” he says.
He also sees an evolution in the upcoming fighters which he thinks is going to improve the quality of the sport.
“There is, it's not just a sport for the meatheads anymore, you know you get a lot of smart people coming into this sport, smart businessmen, smart athletes which I think will just improve the quality of the sports,”
The future of MMA in India, nevertheless, looks bright and as for Susovan, he is a man that keeps it simple.
“I just want to get back to training, get back in shape and whenever the next fight comes up I just want to perform to my full potential. So that’s about it,” he concluded.