Swapnil Barve stands as one of the most popular and talented Indian MMA fighters. Swapnil Barve is from Nasik and holds a record of 2-3, with both wins coming via stoppages. He currently trains at Outraw training academy in Navi Mumbai and happens to be one of the most decorated Sambo artists in India. He started his career on a low note of a two fight losing streak but despite that he didn’t give up and managed to bounce back. Since then he has gone 2-1 in his last 3. He is also a Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner in the sport of Sambo. He will be taking on his toughest test to date on July 7th at CKF event when he meets former UFC fighter Yao Zhikui. Ahead of the match, Barve took some time off to answer questions from WWW.MMAINDIA.COM about his personal life, journey so far as a fighter, current state of Indian MMA and more
Paarth Pande: MMA is not a very popular sport in India. What got you into MMA? Do you have any combat sports background?
Swapnil Barve: During school days, I was bullied by my seniors due to my introvert and conserved nature for which I started learning Muay Thai for my self-defense. Slowly I started developing interest in this field. The power to defend myself and the sparring sessions made me fall in love with combat sports. I decided to take this field seriously and get into professional fighting. I took training in Muay Thai and Boxing till 2008 followed by getting into MMA after that.
PP: Did people around you support the decision of taking this sport as a career? What are the biggest challenges that you have faced?
SB: You don’t get people’s support overnight; you have to earn it with your hard work and positive results. In the beginning, there was no one who supported me apart from my coaches; my coaches are the reasons why I’m here today. There was no support from my family also, but after achieving Bronze medal for Sambo in Common wealth games and later being the only Indian fighter winning against Afghan fighter in India vs Afghanistan in the year of 2014, made people believe in me and grant their support. The biggest challenge I faced was, money. For a fighter, you need proper nutrition and coming from not so financially stable family, there was no money to take care of my nutrition. There were not so interested sponsors in those times, like we have today.
PP: For the growth of a sport, the sport needs a star. Why do you think that the Indian MMA world hasn’t been able to produce one? What are your thoughts on the current batch of Indian MMA fighters? Who is the best?
SB: I don’t think that MMA hasn’t been able to produce good fighters all these years. There are a lot of well trained, knowledgeable and skilled fighters in India. The reason why they don’t get noticed and become a star, is due to less opportunities and financial issues. If they are given proper facilities and financial help, India is not so far from being known for MMA as a sport. It is very difficult to name any one or two fighters that are my favorites because all are good in one or the other area. The current batch is not only enthusiastic but also educated and upgraded in terms of knowledge, skills and that hunger for more knowledge from different experienced and knowledgeable coaches, making their over all game stronger.
PP: What are your thoughts on the state of Indian MMA? MMA is notoriously known for the bad backstage politics. Have you ever faced any problems from major promoters?
SB: Unlike before, there are many young people now getting into MMA and becoming professional fighters. The time has been changed and so is the people’s mindset towards MMA. People are accepting it as one of the sports in India. And, as far as, backstage politics is concerned, you will find it in every corner of this world, MMA too has it. I have faced it in my growing career too. Keeping a safe distance and not letting it affect you, is the only thing a fighter should do.
PP: Indian MMA fighters have in past faced lots of troubles. Complaints about not being paid at all for fighting, complaints about emotional torture from organizations, troubles from managing teams, and lack of support from everybody. Have you faced any such problems? What are your thoughts on the claim made by various fighters that most managers don’t support the growth of MMA fighters?
SB: When money gets involved in any sport, it automatically gives birth to internal or backstage politics, politics on the part of sponsors, managers and different organizations. I have few personal experiences too and I’m sure many of us have experienced. Paying less or paying nothing after making false promises, lack of support and false claims by sponsors are just drifting us more far from reaching our goal that is, making MMA as one of the popular sport in India. This is only possible if we develop a sense of team work and support each other in growing and not pulling each other down for your own benefits.
PP: What are your next plans? Who are you facing and when? What are your thoughts on your opponent and how do you see the fight going?
SB: I have been preparing for my next match for CKF event that is against the former UFC and a very strong fighter, Yao Zhikui that is going to take place on 7th of July 2017 at Beijing, China. I see myself coming back home with the victory and making my country proud.
PP: As a sports man what is your ultimate dream?
SB: For me, MMA is my religion. I am what I am today; it’s only because of this sport. Hence, my dream is to see MMA becoming one of the popular sports in India. I also have a dream to compete in UFC and become one of the known fighters in the world and make my country proud.
PP: You usually finish your opponents. What is your game plan? What is your emotional state as you enter a fight?
SB: I don’t usually strategize or have any pre- plans before the match. I always go in the ring with a motive of winning the fight. I just train hard and make myself strong, mentally and physically, to compete with any fighter that comes my way.
PP: One of the most discussed topics in MMA today is fighter pay. What are your thoughts on the pay made by an average MMA fighter? What are your thoughts on fighter union? Will you join the union if given a chance?
SB: The pay given to the MMA fighters is very less, as they have to take care of their nutrition, family and also work and train for the fights simultaneously. It’s really hard to do everything in that small amount of pay. Like other sport players, we also bring medal for our country and I believe the amount of pay and sponsorships other sport players get should be given to MMA fighters too. If being a part of a fighter’s union would get us the equal amount of support in terms of finance and respect, then I would love to be the part of it, after all, MMA is a sport that should be ‘By The Fighters, For The Fighters’.
PP: What is your message to everyone who wants to take MMA as a career?
SB: MMA is not just a sport that will give you money, name and fame. It makes you stronger in terms of mental, physical and emotional too. It makes you a better person and teaches you to fight against all the odds in the ring as well as in your real life. So, for all those who want to take MMA as a career, go ahead and take it. Be the change for yourself and contribute in making MMA India successful.
Swapnil Barve spoke to Paarth Pande