It's not cricket, and it's not football. But MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a huge sport in Hyderabad and has some internationally recognized participants. Surely, this comes as a surprise as not many are aware of the popularity and reach of the sport. And if there is one man who can be credited for this success and popularity, then it's Shaik Khalid, who runs the Hyderabad MMA Gym. For the uninitiated, MMA was promoted in films such as Sultan by Salman Khan and in Brothers, which starred Akshay Kumar and Siddharth Malhotra.
A full-contact combat sport, the sport's popularity rose due to UFC and One Championship. MMA took off in India with 'Super Fight League' that was launched in 2012 by Bollywood personalities Sanjay Dutt and Raj Kundra.2013 was an important year for Sheikh Khalid as four of his students – Bilal, Ghouse, Kurshid, and Amer – were contenders in the Super League. Khalid changed the name of his club to Telangana Association of Mixed Martial Arts (TAMMA) when the state bifurcated in 2014.
One student of Khalid who has made a big name in the sport happens to be Mahboob, who was once a tailor and taxi driver. Khalid spotted the talent in him and groomed him for nationals, and Mahboob now has three straw-weight and four flyweight national gold medals, one international gold medal, and has been five times fight-night (semi-pro) champion.
Another student of his, Khurshid Mohiuddin, is now an MMA trainer at an official UFC gym in Chicago, US.
Shaik Khalid is now the team India coach and says Hyderabad is paving the way for the sport's rising popularity. Khalid himself started wrestling in 2000 and learned karate in 2002, and then moved on to Muay Thai and full-contact kick-boxing by 2006. His club now has four branches, one each in Chaderghat, Malakpet, Tarnaka, and AS Rao Nagar. He has trained about 2000 people till now in the sport.
Despite being a full-contact sport, MMA happens within strict guidelines, and those who love the sport say it has fewer chances of brain injury than boxing and American football.