Founder of K1L MMA league tells how he convinced Mike Tyson to come to India to launch the league.
India will have its first global mixed martial arts (MMA) league which will be soon underway in Mumbai. Before the ‘Kumite 1 League’ (K1L) kicks off, there will be a fight-night on September 29 at NSCI Dome, Worli with Mike Tyson unveiling the competition.
For bringing Tyson to the country, it was not just-a-phone-call thing for the founder of the league, MohamedAli Budhwani. The former boxer has his own ideas and it takes more than just a phone call or an email to get him on a flight journey that takes more than 15 hours.
Budhwani had to fly down to Las Vegas where Tyson lives (his mansion shown in the Hangover movies) . “It was a visit I had to make,” says Budhwani. “People have been trying for so many years to get Mike Tyson to come to India. Even he had his you know... inhibitions when it came to coming so far. So I went there and told him my plan. He talked to me for a while and he said that he is in it (sic),” narrates Budhwani.
“Mike was excited to hear about this idea. He told me that he wants to help the league grow in the country and around the world,” he adds.
So what enticed the former boxer who has never agreed to other offers pertaining to India? Unlike the other MMA leagues, this one will have eight countries competing against each other. Each team will be country-based and will have nine players with seven men and two women. The players will be selected via auctions which will be hosted in India, UAE, United States, and UK.
The eight teams will be: India, Pakistan, Middle East, Russia, UK, China and Philippines. The dates have not been set yet, but Budhwani indicates the beginning of 2019 as the start of the league.
It was the childhood fandom of watching WWE that made an entrepreneur like Budhwani venture into this field of sports. “I was always fascinated as a kid whenever I watched WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment). I always wanted something like this here as well. For the last couple of years, my team has been working on getting this plan into action and now that it is happening, I am glad,” he says.
Budhwani is the CMD of Toyam Industries Limited which is public listed. He says he is funding a major chunk of the league through his own company along with few other sponsors. They even paid some fighters double money. “Most of the fighters tell us that they get very less money. What we did, we was gave them double money. They get 1000 dollars, so we gave them double (sic),” he says.
Before the league starts, K1L will have a grassroot programme with All India Mixed Martial Arts Federation to find talent in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru.