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ONE Championship star Zeba Bano Thrilled For the Future of MMA in India

LockerRoom Team
08 July 2022

There are more significant victories to be won beyond the actual fights, and Zeba Bano is becoming a catalyst for that victory in India. 

She might have lost her ONE Championship debut to Nat “Wondergirl” Jaroonsak at ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot this past May. But more importantly, she has changed the perception of many Indians about her sport.

“The place where I stay, people don’t usually like sports because it includes wearing shorts and working out with guys,” Bano said ahead of her atomweight showdown with Lea Bivins at ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash on 22 July at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

“Lots of people’s mindset have changed now after seeing me.”

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Even if she went down via submission in her inaugural match in The Home of Martial Arts, Bano still received a hero’s welcome. People gathered to greet her upon her arrival from Singapore, and the crowd included legislative assembly members and the deputy superintendent of police.

It was like a dream come true for Bano because she also received a parade around her neighborhood. Though the hometown girl lost, fighting on a global platform was worthy of celebration for her townsfolk.

“I had never imagined that there would be a moment like this in my life. I had only seen it for others. I always wonder if I would ever have a moment like this,” she said.

“They took me on an open-top vehicle around my village, Amethi. It went on for four to five days, and there were many people. People were happy that someone, especially a Muslim girl from our district, made it to a huge platform like ONE. It is a big deal for everyone.”

But a bigger celebration is due because more parents are embracing mixed martial arts. Though the all-encompassing sport can be tough at times, they are approaching Bano to help teach the craft to their kids. Therefore, her efforts did not go down in vain, since she will have an opportunity to mentor the next generation of Indian MMA fighters.

“They want to send their young daughters to train. I was in our village for eight days, and almost every day, someone would say, ‘We too want to teach martial arts to our kids. Please give us some tips,’” the 23-year-old competitor said.

ALSO READ | Zeba Bano Wants To Show Other Women Success Is Possible As A Fighter

With more people in her circle showing interest in MMA, it could create a ripple effect and give rise to a new wave of fighters who will follow in her footsteps.

Indeed, the prospect of MMA in India with Bano as one of their trailblazers sounds interesting. But for the discipline to get more widespread acceptance, she admits that getting help from the authorities will be a game-changer.

“Yes, definitely. I think India has a huge scope in MMA. I could see that people are excited about MMA. The future belongs to MMA. I want to appeal to our government to promote MMA too, so that people who don’t know about the sport can get to know about it,” Bano said.


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