By Erik Uebelacker
India’s Aranjot Kaur (Youth A bantamweight) started training in general mixed martial arts when she was 14 years old and started competing in amateur bouts shortly after.
“I started with complete MMA rules, which were for [adults], not youth,” Kaur said.
Despite facing opponents several years her senior in a ruleset meant for adults, Kaur won both of her amateur bouts. She doesn’t even recall their ages.
“No one knew who my opponents were,” Kaur said. “They were both senior amateurs. But I really don’t know [how old they were].”
As a member of Team India at the 2022 Youth World Championships, she’ll be competing under a modified amateur ruleset that is specifically designed for under-18 competition.
The most significant change between this youth ruleset and IMMAF’s standard amateur one is that head strikes of any kind are illegal. This not only accommodates safety but the quick turnaround for the youth athletes, who compete several times in one tournament day.
Kaur explained how this adjusted ruleset gave her initial trouble, considering her experience in adult competition.
“It was a little uncomfortable because I was so used to striking on the face,” she said. “When I transitioned to body shots and everything, I had to put all my mind into it. It was difficult, but then I got used to it. It even helped me in a way – my body shots got so sharpened up.”
Kaur was even thankful for the chance to compete within proper youth rules, recognizing the importance of staying safe while competing so often.
“It’s really great for the safety of the children when you are under 18,” she said. “I really appreciate that you have to fight this way… I think next year I’ll be turning junior amateur, so now I’ll be prepared for that.”
Making her IMMAF tournament debut, Kaur believes that the experience she gains in Abu Dhabi will be immensely beneficial to her future MMA career.
“I’m really thankful for this because right now I’m getting so much exposure,” she said. “This platform, everyone is watching. It’s really commendable, and I really appreciate this opportunity and that Sharif [Bapu, MMA India Federation President] found me and brought me on the team. I’m really thankful.”