‘Are you facing a midlife crisis?’ – This is one of the questions that were thrown at Jitendra Khare when he announced his MMA debut.
Though he has been producing quality fighters over the past seven years through Team Relentless, Jitendra has stayed away from competing inside the change.
Now, at the age of 40, he is set to change that.
Jitendra is set to make his MMA debut at Ultimate Beatdown 29 in Malaysia next month. He is scheduled to fight Phuong Nguyen of UFC Gym Vietnam in an 88kg catchweight bout in a story that writes itself.
So, despite being one of the most notable names in Indian MMA, why did Jitendra decide to delay his debut till now? He has his own reasons.
Jitendra Khare: I have a belief that there is a right time and right place for everything. I’m not being cocky as much as I’m proud about the fact that anyone that knows Indian MMA today knows about Team Relentless. I have spent the last 7 years of my life with a single minded focus of developing fighters from scratch and building a team of fighters whose resumes speak for themselves. That was the need of the hour then and I don’t have a single moment of regret for doing that. Having said that I feel that somewhere the competitor within me was slowly dying and the need of the hour now is for me to step back in competition and also show my teammates that if I can do it there is no reason that they can’t. Also I don’t want to be an arm chair general resigned to wearing a Coaches jacket and living of some legacy. I want to create history and legacy till they put some wood on me and light fire to it.
The last 18 months have been crucial for Jitendra. He lost a whopping 50 KGs and he notes that his body feels better than ever. This was one of the reasons that helped him make the decision.
Jitendra Khare: Listen I’m 40 years old and probably in the best shape of my life. I have spent the last 18 months losing 50kgs; which I believe has added years to my life and my body feels better than ever. So why not? I keep preaching to my teammates that the excitement of competition should be greater than the fear of losing. So I guess time to Walk the Walk. Another thing ticked off my bucket list.
Unsurprisingly, his decision to take the leap was met with mixed responses. But his teammates have been showering him with support.
Jitendra Khare: I’m blessed to have a great bunch of guys that I call my teammates. They have been very positive and supportive about my amateur MMA debut and are all rallying around me in my Fight Camp to get me ready and in shape for the fight. Though I still feel most of them will love to see me get an ass whooping in the cage for all the days that I have tortured them.
It is going to be an entirely different experience for both Jitendra and his teammates. Usually, Jitendra will be seen in the corner of his teammates who are fighting. This time around, the tables will turn.
Jitendra Khare: We do have a lot of fun post training sessions trying to imitate how each of my teammates would corner me in case they would have been able to be there. But on a more serious note I would really trust each and every one of my guys to corner me during my fight. I know that they all have my back when required.
I’m hoping to have the owner of FightG MMA Academy Singapore and my head coach & mentor, Darren Da Silva in my corner for this fight and would love to see either one of my oldest training partners, Susovan Ghosh or Khriemelie Metha in my corner. Hopefully one of them are able to make it.
Another interesting subplot for Jitendra’s debut is Ultimate Beatdown. It is the longest running MMA promotion in Malaysia and has been a proving ground for Indian MMA fighters for quite some time now. Making his debut at such a grand stage further raises the stakes for Jitendra.
Jitendra Khare: Ultimate Beatdown has been a proving ground for Team Relentless fighters since last 4 years. I for one know that the match ups are fair and the promoters are a great bunch of people to work with. It’s an absolute honour to be able to make my debut at Ultimate Beatdown. I can never thank Chian Yik, the Goddather of Malaysian MMA for giving me this opportunity.
Going forward, Jitendra plans to fight at Middleweight. But then again, it is the only plan that he has at the moment.
Jitendra Khare: I have a task at hand and I wanna complete that before I start to plan my next step. I don’t want to do the mistake of looking past my opponent.
Ultimate Beatdown 29 is scheduled to take place on August 4, 2018 at Plaza Sentosa in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Apart from Jitendra, the Indian MMA fans will have another reason to tune into the fight night as Manthan Rane will be fighting in the main event. Tune in for our exclusive interview with Manthan ahead of his fight.