How Nagaland’s Khriemelie Metha is nurturing the next generation of fighters

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‘The Combat Academy’ in Nagaland under head coach Khriemelie Metha has been producing some of the best fighters in the country. Over the years, the North-Eastern part of the country has become a hotbed for Martial Artists and more so for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

While being thousands of miles away from the national capital, Nagaland has often been ignored by the stuff that goes on in the mainland, however, the surging MMA scene in the region is giving a chance to local Mixed Martial Artists to showcase their talents.

The coach of the famous ‘The Combat Academy’ in Nagaland Khriemelie Metha has guided many of his students to great heights in national and international MMA. Fighters like Mairidin Newmai and Neitso Angami are training at The Combat Academy under coach Metha. Through the five years of its existence, Combat Academy Nagaland has groomed some notable MMA fighters. Together the team has combined amazing records and numerous championships to their name.

While talking to MMA India Show, Coach Metha talked about his life as a coach, his fighters, and the future of MMA in Nagaland.

How did The Combat Academy start?

The Academy started five years back, it’s almost six now if i’m not mistaken. When I completed my schooling, I decided to go to Bangkok for a few months to do Muay Thai. That was my first taste of competitive martial arts. I came back to India and went to Mumbai for my college education. It was there that I joined Evolution MMA under Coach Jitendra Khare and started training in the other aspects of MMA, mainly BJJ and wrestling.

I suffered an injury during training which forced me home for some rest and relaxation, it was during this longer stint back home that I started just training with some boys in the locality to kill time.

In Nagaland, we have a form of indigenous Naga wrestling which is very similar to belt wrestling. So some of the guys started showing me their techniques and I showed them some basic striking and bjj. I was immensely impressed by their natural athleticism and how quickly they were picking up stuff. I wanted to do something more concrete back home. So I dropped out of college, came back home and started The Combat Academy.”

Coach Metha talked about his MMA Career and his fighters in the gym.

I used to compete but a motor accident sidelined me with multiple injuries and that’s when I decided to completely focus on Coaching athletes.

All my fighters have very impressive records. One is already professional and many more will follow soon. As you know Nagaland and the northeast is far away from mainstream cities in India and it’s been very difficult to find them fights. Over the past few years with YoddhaFC and X1 International I’ve been hosting shows in Nagaland itself. A platform for athletes from the region to showcase their talent. None of us are the whining type. Instead of waiting for opportunities, we are trying to build them.

Training rising stars in Neitso and Mairidin

The best thing about Neitso and Mairidin is that they are super young and at the same time very mature for their age. Looking back, me at 21 I was a joke and didn’t really take anything seriously. They both joined the gym together when they were in college. I still remember during their final year of college we had had a discussion regarding them competing for MMA and they had both told me that while yes their eventual aim is to compete in MMA, they want to first prioritize their academics during their college years and only after give their full time and effort to training. That was around 2 years back and today being true to their word the two of them are now always at team training.

Both of them haven’t figured out their exact style as yet. They both come from a taekwondo background. I don’t really like taekwondo(laughing). I tell them all the time. It’s cute, it makes you flexible and agile but the habits you develop with the hands-down bladed stance, spin kick and fall down does you absolutely no favours in MMA. Don’t get me wrong, it works in MMA but the practitioner requires very high levels of competency

How does he decide when fighters should go Pro?

I feel it’s not about how many amateur wins you have. What matters is discovering your style. Take Khabib for example. He knows his strength is his grappling. It’s not like he can’t strike, but what makes him great is his grappling which he tries to enforce every time. So it takes a couple of fights to accept your strengths and preferences. Most amateur fighters are at that experimental phase. With my guys while they can all grapple and strike, it’s about them realising where they are best at. There’s 10 of us in the competition team. When a new member joins the team or an experienced member turns pro. All 10 must unanimously agree. There are a couple of much younger guys on the team that have already figured out their style. For them it’s no longer about experimenting, it’s about polishing skills. So it’s ultimately not overall experience or skill level that the decision is based on, what matters is have you figured out what works best for you or not.”

Coaches should not restrict their fighters to a particular style or pattern, should give them the freedom

I don’t force them to do anything. It’s wrong to mould them my way. It’s the job of a coach to correct techniques not enforce them. That’s the beauty of amateur competition, it helps you to grow and get more comfortable with competition. One’s own style has to be a mixture of what you want to do and what you excel at.”

Growth of MMA in Nagaland

There’s a genuine curiosity for the sport in Nagaland. The entire younger generation here follows UFC. It’s steadily growing. I’d like to thank you guys for that, the media and social media has played a huge role in the rapid rise of MMA.

Upcoming Plans

My team will compete anywhere and everywhere. I have said it on numerous occasions, iron sharpens iron. To get better we need to keep fighting, continuously get ourselves better opponents, bigger platforms. Eventually, we will turn heads. Being the best in Nagaland, we already are, best in the northeast, big deal. Best in India, still not enough. The goal has to be amongst the best in the world and to get there we need to spread out and fight everywhere,” Coach Metha said.

Word of advice for aspiring MMA fighters

Jab cross, Double leg and sprawl. As a 0-0 amateur fighter that’s your first blueprint. 4 fights in then add hook and roundhouse kicks, how to stand up from the bottom of guard and armbar triangle defense. By your 5th amateur fight, your BJJ and wrestling must be good. Any joker on the street can throw a punch very very few can defend armbars,” Coach Metha said.

On that note, I would say that the initial learning curve for BJJ is very steep, that is for a new guy to learn BJJ it is very hard but for an experienced practitioner to get good at it is much easier. On the other hand, in striking it’s the opposite, to start striking it’s very easy but to get good at it is very difficult.

Take inspiration from Conor McGregor

Do not look at the media’s portrayal of Mcgregor. That image and the guy he is in the gym is very different. There are multiple interviews of his on the net, not press conferences where he is selling his fights. Interviews where he talks about training methods, inspirations, techniques etc. watch them and it’s very clear that Conor McGregor is a very very intelligent man. His wild and brash demeanour outside the cage is completely opposite from how he fights cool, calm and analytical. Idolise him not because of his persona but because of his dedication and intelligence.”


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