Edukondal Rao- the most viral name in the Indian mixed martial arts scene right now, is just a month away from making his much anticipated debut in PFL in the blockbuster PFL vs. Bellator event, heading to the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 24th February.
Nicknamed “Badger”, Edukondal Rao has a professional record of 4-1-0 and will be facing Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Qahtani in a featherweight contest on his promotional debut for PFL, which will make him one of the first fighters to represent India in the promotion.
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The Telugu fighter, who hails out of Bengaluru’s Phenomenal MMA Academy, marked last victory in the cage back in December 2022 when Rao defeated Lionel Mascarenhas at AKA Mandrem Beach – Goa Beach Fight: The Era via 2nd round submission.
MMA India Show Exclusive with PFL Fighter Edukondal Rao
We got in touch with Edu to discuss his big debut in the PFL. He talks about his upcoming fight against Al-Qahtani, lessons from his loss against Gurtej, his message to up and coming Indian fighters, as well as how his fellow fighters reacted to him making it to PFL’s blockbuster card.
1) How has the training been going for you for the match on 24th Feb?
“Training for this upcoming fight, its been going pretty well. Working on striking, working on cage control, working on ground and working for small small details. So I can say this is gonna be my toughest MMA fight.”
2) Where are you training currently and who’s your coach?
“I’m from Phenomenal MMA Academy, and we have collaborated with KOI Combat Academy for this fight happening in Saudi next month. This is the second time we are collaborating with KOI Combat.”
3) How did you know that you were going to fight on this massive fight card?
“This happened two weeks back. Rahul Chhabra called, asking that, ‘will you fight or not at PFL?’ I had taken 2-3 days’ time and I confirmed that I’m in, and I know there are so many big fighters on this card. So when the card came out, then I saw their big names. So its a big way of representing India and myself. more than myself, its like India (as a) nation. Its like the biggest battle I’ve ever fought. So if I snatch, I’ll celebrate it like anything.”
4) What do you know about your PFL vs Bellator Opponent Al-Qahtani?
“When Rahul Chabbra called, regarding this fight and shared opponent details, I had gone through his videos and all his fights. He is a good striker, good at cage control defense, ground defense. He’s a good fighter and I can say that he’s good all around. So it would be good for me as well. I think till now he’s gonna be the strongest opponent in MMA. I like that I’m fighting in a big card in a big way that’s good that I can take this guy in Octagon. Having a tough opponent is always good for you as well. You can push yourself to the limits and winning against him is going to be really good.”
5) Are you currently signed with PFL? And do you hope to get a full contract from them should you win at PFL vs. Bellator card?
“This is one fight contract and yeah, of course if I win in the best possible way, like it could be knockout, or submission, or in a stylish knockout, I’m gonna grab attention, I’m gonna get a contract from PFL. If everything goes as planned, I always wanted to fight three or four fights in a year. That’s I think because I like to fight more, it has that thing. Fighting always gives me that high and it’s something that’s a basic instinct for every human.”
6) Reaction from your fellow fighter when they heard about you competing in Riyadh?
“First thing is, I said to my friend-cum-coach Raj, then Rahul Chabbra and me thought of and had a plan, a way to camp out. We had two options: ICSA and KOI Combat and we are settled with KOI Combat Academy. My opponent Gurtej Singh is good at me all the time, we are fighters but he is very good and supportive to me and he congratulated me through Instagram and one of my other friends, Akib Ali, he too congratulated me on Facebook and few other friends and more of a reaction, getting that recognition like now after twelve years in fighting career, more from my home state Andhra saying that ‘oh you’re the only Telugu guy representing this big way. Reason why I’m saying specifically Telugu guy, its not about region, we have the least infrastructure when it comes to sports, specially combat sports like boxing, kickboxing, it could be anything, Karate, MMA So when I’m representing this big, of course they are happy, excited because I’m from that state. But they don’t know that I’m in Bengaluru, Karnataka. I wish I got this recognition much more earlier so where I could represent more in a big way.”
7) Your message to young MMA fighters in India, who also wish to compete at a higher level like you?
“My message for upcoming MMA fighters is, I want India to be top in every aspect, no just in education, it should be top in every aspect. So when you are entering MMA, make sure that you have a good plan, way to coach like what’s your plan, how to start your amateur and pro career, have a five years’ plan, like “in these months I’m gonna do these, in these many months I’m gonna do that’. So have a proper plan, and just don’t go by your rage. Rage is very very important as the first thing. With rage, with your obsession, with your discipline, the thing should be you are planned. So you should have a good amount of planned MMA career. So the only thing i want is I still remember when i was small i always wanted india to be top at everything. Not just education, it should be top at sports, space programme, military, economics, well being. So I know that in India when you enter a sport, the amount of distance you get from your family, your soeicty, its too much. Its like they’re least bothered about you. Its like you’ll be deserted. So that has to change, I hope that it will change very soon, where like if you get enough support from your own side it will be a boon for everybody. If not, it will be a difficult ride. So, what i want to say is, have a good plan before doing anything.”
Senior Indian MMA expert Rahul Chabbra also opened up about Edukondal Rao’s fight, revealing that he believes PFL will offer them a larger contract if Rao wins against Al-Qahtani.
“If Edu wins this one, i firmly believe that PFL will surprise us with a bigger contract. Really appreciate PFL for giving an opportunity to our fighters. Last year Vikas Singh Ruhil made his debut at PFL Challenger series and this year, Edu becomes the first fighter to fight at PFL super fights. Really grateful to Donn Davis, Peter Murray, Ray Sefo, Eduardo Lima and the entire PFL team for believing in us and keeping an eye on Indian MMA,” said Mr Chabbra.