India’s Road to UFC: In quest for the ultimate glory

The success of Road to UFC’s first season in 2022 has ensured UFC’s zippy return to tap talent from its fresh and booming market in Asia. 

Published : May 25, 2023 13:06 IST - 3 MINS READ

Sumit Kumar with UFC president Dana White.
Sumit Kumar with UFC president Dana White.

Sumit Kumar with UFC president Dana White.

The road to the American dream is open again. The rules of the journey remain intact: 32 of Asia’s handpicked MMA fighters will compete, break some bones and jaws and chart their path into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in a year.

The success of Road to UFC’s first season in 2022 has ensured UFC’s zippy return to tap talent from its fresh and booming market in Asia.

India, too, had its share of jubilation and despair last season when Uttarakhand-born Anshul Jubli soared to the top of the lightweight division and bagged a historic UFC contract in March 2023. His compatriot Pawan Maan Singh was not so lucky as a spinning backfist from Indonesian Jeka Saragih — Anshul’s final opponent — ended his shot in the first round.

Anshul’s remarkable rise from the blue has opened up a new path to the top for India’s silently teeming MMA arcade. The Road to UFC Season 2, which begins its course at the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai on May 27-28, will also bear two Indians across different divisions.

Uttar Pradesh boys Sumit Kumar and Rana Rudra Pratap Singh will represent the country in their separate quests to the Octagon.

Sumit (7-0-0) will open his campaign against South Korean Seung Guk Choi - a Road to UFC participant last season — in the flyweight division. However, the 22-year-old Sumit’s seven-match win streak is under scrutiny for alleged record-padding. While Sumit’s record remains under a cloud, his undeniable skillset has earned him a ticket to China after being spotted by UFC chairman Dana White himself.

Meanwhile, Rana, who will take on South Korean Chang Ho Lee in the bantamweight division, holds an 11-1 record through a predominantly Indian fight background, honing his skills in the suburbs of Lucknow.

A momentous test awaits in Shanghai.

The Road to UFC format

The win-and-advance tournament format begins with a quarterfinal setup with eight fighters across four weight divisions: flyweight, featherweight, bantamweight and lightweight.

The quarterfinal fights are separated into four episodes to be held over two days in Shanghai. India’s Sumit Kumar competes in Episode 2 (May 27) in the flyweight category while Rana Rudra Pratap Singh’s bantamweight opener will take place in Episode 4 on May 28. The semi-finals and finals will be held at separate UFC events later in the year with the winners in each category earning a contract.


Age: 22

Weight Class: Flyweight

Record: 7-0-0*

Last Fight: Win - Guillotine Choke - Round 1. Versus Arjun Kumar at Warrior’s Dream Series 2 on July 23, 2022

Ranked sixth among South Asian pro flyweight fighters.

*Record under scrutiny.

Rana Rudra Pratap Singh
Rana Rudra Pratap Singh

Rana Rudra Pratap Singh


Age: 26

Weight Class: Bantamweight

Record: 11-1-0

Last Fight: Win · Triangle Choke · R1. Versus Harsh Mishra at Fight of Knights on May 22, 2022

Ranked fourth in featherweight and seventh in bantamweight among South Asian pro fighters.

Fights and events to watch out for


Road to UFC

Date: May 27-28

Venue: UFC Performance Institute, Shanghai

UFC 289: Amanda Nunes vs Irene Aldana — Women’s bantamweight main event title bout

Date: June 10

Venue: Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada

UFC 289: Charles Oliveira vs Beneil Dariush — Lightweight co-main event bout

Date: June 10

Venue: Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada

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