Indian MMA Fighter Spotlight

Indian MMA Fighter Spotlight: Zeba Bano opens up about her career so far

Zeba has been competing in the Indian Combat scene for a long time now. Although she entered into Martial Arts by accident, it soon turned out to be a major pursuit for her which landed her in multiple championships and promotions.

A former national level medallist in Boxing, Kickboxing, Wushu and Taekwondo, Zeba has multiple victories to her name in the MMA scene as well having won her fights in UFL and Fight of Knights. Zeba was also on the card of the X1 International Women’s Fight night while also being in the second team in Super Fight League and Super Boxing League. Here is her story.


How she accidentally stumbled on martial arts

I was in the eighth class when some self-defence classes were conducted for girls in our school, at that time it was just a way to avoid studying and later, I started learning it for time pass as well.

The struggles that she faced

I’m from a Muslim community. For a girl to compete from the Muslim community was a big thing. Even now also, a lot of people don’t allow girls to go for higher studies or compete in sports. Many of my friends told all these to me. Some even said that martial arts don’t mean anything. 

Why she took Martial Arts Seriously

I’m a resident of Lucknow. Later, my father got a job in Delhi and we had to move here. There were some difficulties that I faced for settling into the new place. In school, the boys used to tease girls. And one day, when I refused and stood up against them, one of the boys kicked me in the head and hit my head on the wall. This incident is what changed my outlook completely and it made me take up Martial Arts more seriously.

Getting kicked out of SAI for standing up for herself

In 2012-13, when we were training in Sports Authority of India (SAI) at that time, a girl came to us, she was video shooting to increase her TRP while I was preparing for my junior nationals. The coach told me to train and fight with her and lose to her so that she could have the video on an international channel. Due to my refusal, I was thrown out of SAI forever.

The starting days and struggle of not getting sponsors

When I started, at that time I did not know about what platform I should fight or not, it was just that I had to fight. For the benefits of coaches, I fought in National and International championships but it was only later that I found out that there is no benefit from all those. The biggest problem that I have faced from the beginning until now was getting sponsors and the right guidance.

Turning around her career at GALA Fight Night 2019

It was after my fight at GALA Fight Night in 2019 that my life changed. I changed my lifestyle. I understood my skills. I understood how people were using me and hiding my skills for their gains. I got a different image in the Indian combat circuit after this fight and people started identifying me. I got a chance to show the skills that I had.

Lessons from Combat Sports

What I have learned from Combat Sports is that you can change yourself with time; an ordinary person can never understand what a human being has to do to become a player. You can be identified by the game and you can get a different identity in the world only through the sport. A fighter can understand the meaning of ‘Never Give Up’ to the core.


Indian MMA Fighter Spotlight is a series from LockerRoom India where we feature the upcoming Indian MMA fighters and share their story.

Also Read: How Anand Sharma is creating a Jiu-Jitsu and MMA movement in rural India