Bharti Dhoundiyal is one of the most popular female MMA fighters in India. The 21-year-old Delhi-girl has broken the mindset of many stereotypes that girls cannot fight. She comes from a traditional martial arts background but now competes in the MMA league organized by Super Fight League and is a part of Team Punjab. I recently had the opportunity to talk to her.
MMA is not a very popular sport in India. What got you into MMA? Who was your influence and describe your journey so far?
I started training in Taekwondo at a very young age. I continued it but did not find it interesting, hence I switched to Wushu. It was fun, Wushu involved a lot more many aspects of combat than Taekwondo and had many competitors. I enjoyed it and one of my friends introduced me to MMA. I watched a fair few matches and fell in love with it. MMA was hardcore, even if you are knock downed you can get up. It was something which was meant for me and I decided to take it as a career.
Ronda Rousey has acted as an inspiration to me. The way she destroyed her opponents got me excited. I always admired her and she was the one who gave me the confidence to try my hands on this sport.
My journey has been very difficult. I have experienced the excitement of winning and the depression of losses.
Did people around you support the decision of you taking MMA as a career? What are your thoughts on the conservative attitude of many people that women cannot fight?
My family has been very supportive of me and that is what matters. I don’t care what others have to say. In most cases family members of a MMA fighter hold them back by saying you will get hurt but in my case my parents always tell me to give my best. They say do not worry about getting hurt you will recover.
This is the attitude of many people, they think that girls cannot fight but they are wrong. When they will take a look at the league their attitude will change.
You are one of the fair few Indian women who take combat sport as a career, can you explain why Indian women do not select combat sport as a career option?
Most of the women in India do not get support from family to take combat sports as a career. They fear that their daughter will get hurt, this will result in her face losing its beauty and hence no guy will marry her. Even if a girl wants to take a career in combat sports they are pulled down by people around them.
You became the first woman from North Delhi to be selected in SFL; this phase is arguably the toughest phase of your career. Do you feel some sort of pressure?
Yes. There is a lot of pressure on me. First of all, this will be the first time I fight on national television. I want to win and make my parents proud. Hence I am training very hard.
Your performance in the last couple of fights has been a bit disappointing; can you explain what it has been like going through this? In this tough phase of your career what is that one thing which still keeps you help move forward?
I started my career as a MMA fighter without learning everything about the sport. I did not have a ground game, whenever I was brought on to the ground I did not know what to do. Hence I used to lose. But now I have been learning about submissions and calculations on ground hence I am improving.
The support from my family and coaching has helped me a lot in improving and moving forward from these losses.
MMA is at its infancy stage. Do you think that MMA in India can become a popular sport in near future?
Yes, it will become a very popular sport. As the league will start people will understand what MMA is and it will be the next big thing.
What is your message to every Indian girl who tries to pursue MMA as a career?
Be brave and strong. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt and work hard.
Thanks for your time Bharti.