Above: Rao takes gold in Bangalore – via @MMAKarnataka By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran A fundamental goal of the high functioning All India Mixed Martial Arts Association (AIMMAA) is to develop the standard of home grown talent. Last month IMMAF.org looked at the AIMMAA progression initiative for both athletes and coaches that sees contenders spread across three national squads: A, B and C. Those representing the national A-team will go on to represent India at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships. Taking place in Manama, Bahrain, at Khalifa Sports City Arena from 12 to 19 November, as part of Brave International Combat Week, the 2017 World Championships are anticipated to be the biggest event to date under IMMAF with more participants than ever before representing nations from all continents. Among the lineup of athletes recently promoted India’s A-team set for Bahrain is 18-year-old Flyweight competitor Nishigandha Rao: India’s first ever female amateur representative. Despite being among the youngest athletes to compete at the IMMAF World Championships (18 being the minimum age requirement for IMMAF events), Rao is no stranger to competition with a background in amateur kickboxing. In 2015 Rao took bronze in an international kickboxing meet of 16 countries. Representing India’s Thane District Kickboxing Association (TDKA), her achievement contributed to one of India’s most successful efforts on the platform. In addition, the active competitor won national championship gold this year in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. For her mixed martial arts debut Rao transitioned successfully last year under the banner of Super Fight League (SFL) in New Delhi. SFL stands as the nation’s most well established organisation, sanctioned by AIMMAA. Competing on the amateur undercard Rao secured victory via knockout in the opening round. Earlier this month Rao was victorious in the prominent Bangalore amateur MMA championships and remained undefeated as one of India’s most confident and exciting up and comers in pursuit of a first IMMAF World Championships medal.