By Caoilte de Barra
Mahboob Khan is one of India’s top amateur athletes in the sport after becoming the nation’s first IMMAF World Champion in 2018. Since then, he has moved up a weight division and onto the senior ranks.
Despite not adding any IMMAF medals to his collection, his reign over the flyweight division nationally continued as he recently became a national champion for the fifth occasion in front of a crowd of almost 25,000.
Before that, he competed at the 2021 World Championships, losing to Dastan Zhakypbekov in his opening bout. Despite the result, Khan spoke highly of the experience and explained how post-covid health issues were still at play.
“Well, it was a great experience, win or lose, it doesn’t matter to me. At that time, due to covid, I was suffering from some health issues. And another big reason for my loss was the absence of my coach Mr Shaik Khalid. At the Asian Championships, I am going to do my best, and it will be my greatest comeback.”
When Khan began training in MMA in 2016, the sport wasn’t too popular, but he believes his gold medal helped raise the profile of the sport nationally.
“Back when I started, MMA was not that popular in India because, at the time, people were not aware of the skill involved in MMA, but after seeing my result at the IMMAF World Championships. Indian media covered my story, and people came to know about the sport, and lots of youths from my hometown were inspired and joined. I can see it progressing, day by day, all around India, and MMA India played an important role in the development.”
Now, almost fifty amateur bouts later, Khan explained how important it is to gain experience as an amateur before jumping to the pro ranks, a move he aims to make next year.
“It’s very important for a fighter to start as an amateur because we get lots of experience during this journey. We face different kinds of opponents from all around the world, where we learn a lot which can be very helpful before starting as a pro, and IMMAF and MMA India play a great role to enhance amateur talent around the world.
“After gaining some more experience in IMMAF tournaments and winning more gold medals for my country. In 2023, I am looking to make my pro debut.”
With eyes set on making a career in MMA, the flyweight contender explains how he managed to put his taxi-driving days behind him to pursue the sport.
“At the start, I didn’t have any plans in MMA, but when my coach told me everything about MMA fights and showed me some UFC videos, I got more interested. He told me about district, state, national and international fights. After knowing all of this, I decided to become a fighter, but as a taxi driver, I was lacking money. I explained my financial situation to my coach, and he helped me out with everything and also started supporting me financially, so, at that point, I was just focused on the training.”
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation will be live streaming its 2022 Asian Championships live and on-demand at immaf.tv from 27 – 30 October from 11:00 hrs (UTC+5). All matches across 4 full days of elite amateur MMA action will be available worldwide from $9.99 for the Championships Pass.