MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is a full-contact sport that combines different fighting styles, including karate, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Vale Tudo, Muay Thai and Brazilian Ju jitsu. It is considered one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but in India, MMA is still very much in its infancy. However, there is a young Indian who is slowly but surely making his presence felt in the MMA international arena. Meet Nelson Paes, who recently scripted India’s first win at an international MMA event.

Earlier this year, in January, Paes beat local favourite Khadoum Al Kaabi of the United Arab Emirates to win the Desert Force Championship in Dubai, in the featherweight category. “This was new territory for me, as I am used to fighting in India with my fans supporting me,” Paes said of his victory, “but I took his cheers as my own and ensured that it did not affect me. I was so proud to carry the Indian flag and represent my country. I knew from the moment of my selection that nothing would stop me from winning this for my country, state, my family and the Indian residents of Dubai.”

Hailing from Goa, Paes’ interest in sports stemmed from his younger days, when he dabbled in football, hockey and athletics. After he completed his studies, Paes moved to Pune and began working, but he always yearned to do something different. “I was about 23 years old, I think, when I first started training; this was when I was in Pune working for a BPO,” he told the website www. sportskeeda.com. “But I wasn’t happy there — all the corporate rigmarole. A friend of mine was training and he introduced me to Muay Thai. Since then it has been an addiction, to the sport. That’s when it all started and I decided – money or no money, I want to fight.” Having realised his true calling, Nelson went on to win several tournaments in India, organised by the martial arts entertainment company Combat Cage Fights (CCF). “Whatever I have achieved today has been because CCF gave me the opportunity, “Paes told the newspaper O Heraldo.

Nelson Paes
Nelson Paes
Nelson Paes
Nelson Paes

In his first international victory, against the backdrop of one of the world’s richest cities, watched by a full house and set to the beats of pulsating music, Paes combined skill and agility and wrested victory in three full rounds, via a unanimous decision by the judges. Each round lasted five minutes and despite Paes’ assault, Al Kaabi showed great resilience. He fought back valiantly, but Paes matched him punch for punch, ensuring that the judges’ decisions were clearly in his favour. His current MMA record now stands at 3-2-0 (win-loss-draw), with a current streak of three victories.

Yet to get over the excitement of his win, Paes is looking forward to recovering for a month or two, and then charting out his future course of action.“Now I can see all the opportunities come my way and be ready for the next big moment in my life. My MMA career has kicked off in earnest now, and I could not be happier. Right now, I would like to enjoy this moment,” he said.

According to Nelson, the challenging part about MMA is to keep winning. However, he is quick to caution that winning is not easy and has a word of advice for all the youngsters keen to take up the sport. “MMA may look colourful and fancy, but one needs to be dedicated, focussed, determined and consistent,” he told O Heraldo. “Nothing can stop you if you have these qualities, whatever the challenges.”

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