‘Was supposed to fix teeth, now I break them’: India’s MMA star Angad Bisht vows to keep fighting

A late starter in the sport, Angad Bisht has no qualms after turning down a career in medicine to become an MMA fighter.

Published : Jun 28, 2023 17:59 IST , NEW DELHI - 10 MINS READ

Angad Bisht after a Matrix Fight Night win.
Angad Bisht after a Matrix Fight Night win. | Photo Credit: Instagram/mfn_mma

Angad Bisht after a Matrix Fight Night win. | Photo Credit: Instagram/mfn_mma

For the most part, Angad Bisht’s Instagram profile gives a fairly straightforward glimpse into the life of a 27-year-old who is one of India’s top Mixed martial arts (MMA) prospects. You see pictures of training camps, highlight reels of knockouts, title belts and photos with fans. There are posters of upcoming fights like his latest on July 1 st where he defends his flyweight title against Brazil’s Hugo Paiva at Matrix Fight Night – India’s most prestigious fight promotion.

Scroll down to about 27 weeks back and you come across an image that seems out of place. It’s a screen grab from a video that was uploaded by a very popular YouTube channel for civil services aspirants. The screen grab shows a question from a sample paper on current affairs for the upcoming Uttarakhand Public Service Commission (UKPSC) exam. “Which district of Uttarakhand does Angad Bisht, who recently won the flyweight championship in Dubai, hail from” the question reads. “Three years ago, my father told me to fill UKPSC form,” is the caption Angad has given.

Angad, of course, never did fill that form. It was a gamble he admits, to pursue the uncertainty of a career in fight sport rather than the security of a regular nine to five but there was never any doubt. “It (a government job) might have been the safer option but it wasn’t my option,” he tells Sportstar. And while he isn’t saying mission accomplished just yet, Angad who holds a 4-fight win streak and has currently a 9-3 win-loss record, certainly believes he’s gone some way in justifying his self belief in pursuing a non-mainstream career path.

Even a government job wasn’t his family’s first choice. Angad’s parents ran a sweet shop in Uttarakhand, Rudraprayag town but the expectation was that he would study medicine. “I was good at studies so I even thought that was what I was supposed to do,” he says.

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When he was 18-years-old, he studied for and cleared his Pre Medical Test, but that was when doubts began to kick in. “I had qualified for BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) in Uttarakhand but I was thinking about how I really didn’t want to do a regular job. My heart wasn’t in it,” he says.

He convinced his parents to let him take another year off to study in order to make another attempt. Although this was ostensibly to get admission to a different medical stream, he had already found another passion. “I was preparing for my medical entrance exams in Dehradun and I started going to the gym over there. I was in the city to study but I really started enjoying going to the gym. Slowly I realised this was something that I really wanted to do. At least compared to medicine. I felt that was a very limited job,” he says.

Eventually even working out at a gym wouldn’t ease his itch. “When I was gyming, I was thinking even if I made a body then what? What’s next after that? That’s when I felt I should try fighting,” he says. Although he had no training in combat sports until then, he decided to move to Delhi. “I didn’t know much about MMA. I used to watch a lot of boxing and martial arts. I really loved the Rocky movies. I thought I could do it. These things weren’t there in Dehradun so that’s why I came to Delhi,” he says.

Staying in a 3500 rupee-a-month rented accommodation, he worked at a gym in the morning and started training in mixed martial arts in the evening. “When I think about it, it was a hard experience. I couldn’t, of course, tell my family. I was working at a gym in the morning and then training from five to ten in the evening. But at that time it felt amazing. I was getting to chase my dream,” he says.

Although he was a late starter in the sport, his lack of experience only motivated him. “Before I started MMA, I felt I was a really strong guy. I had been gyming for many years and I was doing a lot of calisthenics. But I quickly realised in my first training session, just how weak I was as a fighter. But that pushed me to train harder,” he says.

Within a few months he was taking part in his first amateur fight. The feeling was like no other, he recalls. “I had no idea about weight cutting or anything. I had almost no training. I was just fighting. It’s a completely different adrenaline rush, like nothing else. Your legs are shaking before the fight but once it starts you are ready,” he says.

That first fight would be the start of what has blossomed into a promising career. He currently holds a 9-3 record with four straight wins and is rated the second-best South Asian flyweight, according to the well-regarded Tapology rankings. Prior to competing at Matrix Fight Night, Angad had won at the Dubai-based Brave FC and the former Indian promotion Super Fight League as well. Where once he struggled to be able to afford training, he now routinely heads for camps overseas– he has been practising in Indonesia and Thailand over the past couple of months in preparation for his latest fight.

For all his success he is still trying to bring his parents around. “When my mom first found out that I wasn’t studying but learning to fight, it was a very big problem. After that, I generally don’t tell them what I’m doing. Indian parents are never going to be happy unless you have a traditional ‘safe’ job. But I can see it from their side too. My elder brother is a contractor and my younger brother works at our sweet shop. I was supposed to be the intelligent one, but I went into fighting,” he says. “Recently when I was at home, my mom was talking to my niece just loud enough so I could hear. She was saying ‘your uncle never became a doctor, so now you have to,’” he recalls.

Angad’s happy with his choice. “There is this joke that I sometimes say. I was supposed to fix teeth but now I break them,” he says. Indeed he’s now looking to help others progress faster than he did. After once struggling to find a gym in which to train as a fighter, Angad opened his own gym in Dehradun using the money he earned over the course of his career. “When I was an amateur it took me three years to know what getting into a side mount was. When I found out, I realised just how much of my time I had been wasting. Now I teach it on the first day at my gym. There are very few really holistic MMA training centers in India. There are so many coaches who are just looking to make money how they can,” he says.

Although he’s still an active fighter, Angad is already making a mark as a coach too. “Apart from me, there are two guys from my gym who are going to fight on the MFN card. They are good. I am sure there will be more from my gym,” he says.

While he has no doubt he can create a pipeline of talent, Angad’s first priority is himself. “I started my career a little late so I still have many areas to work on. I want to do well at MFN but I also have dreams of going to the UFC (the world’s richest and most prestigious MMA promotion). Anshul Jubli (the first Indian to win a UFC contract) is from Uttarakhand as well. If he can do it, I also believe I can,” he says.

It’s not an easy prospect but Angad is optimistic. “I could have done what my parents expected me to do. I could have done my graduation in medicine, got married, been stuck doing a regular job working from 9 to 5 and been thinking about how I never really chased my dream. There are so many guys I know who are like that. But I was able to make my own way in life. When I think about where I started, what I was expected to do and where I am now, I can’t believe it. But I am not satisfied. I still have a long way to go,” he says.

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