NTIMES 8NOV: “If you have a Dream, Live it”
He came, he saw, and he conquered…….. our hearts. Most people in India did not know what mixed martial arts (MMA) meant. But that was before SFL Challenger India stormed into our living rooms. And with it came Isaac Kario, the soft spoken, shy and mild-mannered fighter from the North East. He let his fists and kicks do the talking. And boy did they talk! A strong favorite from the get go he did not disappoint and he went on to become the champion of the 1st SFL Challenger India. He hails from Senapati District, Manipur and is from the Mao tribe.
Here’s the Champion in person sharing his experience with you all today.
Nagalim Times (NT): Congratulations! Isaac. We are indeed very proud of your achievements and we would be very glad if you can share your success with our Nagalim Times members.
Issac: Thank you, and also for giving me an opportunity to share my experience here.
NT: Being crowned the First ever Champion of Super Fight League Challengers (SFL) India must have been exciting to say the least. How has life been treating you ever since?
Issaac: It’s truly been an overwhelming experience, more so because I had no idea a lot of our people had been following the show.
NT: Can you tell us briefly your overall experiences during the entire SFL Challenger season?
Issac: The entire season was for almost two months. We were locked in the camp, which was the training area and living quarters under one roof. Outings were once a week. Completely cut off from the rest of the world… no phones, newspapers, internet, tv… not even sunlight! All I had was a prayer book they allowed me to keep. Cameras followed us 24/7. All we did was train, eat and sleep. I think I almost lost my sanity! It’s a tough sport and requires fighters to be multidimensional and we had different coaches for that. Striking, grappling, strength and conditioning. Two gruelling training sessions every day. Was a weird feeling too, because you’re fighting people you train and are friends with. Yeah, it was tough but fun at the same time.
NT: We followed each episode of SFL Challengers with bated breath and you were always our favourite contender from the beginning. But when did you start to realize that you were in with a fair chance to win the competition?
Issac: Right from the start, all I thought was I’m just going to give it all I got and I guess it worked for me. Winning is one thing but at the same time, to truly know I tried, I think that gave me more satisfaction.
NT: Coming from the North East and participating in such a high profile, nationally televised show did you, at any point of time, face any kind of discrimination?
Issac: I don’t think so, I’ve heard a few of our people saying that I wasn’t getting much coverage in the show, which was true but I think it’s because I used to get real conscious whenever I was being filmed and kept hiding from the cameras. I never got used to that till the end!
NT: Who did you imagine would be your toughest competitor and why?
Issac: Once the fight cards were set up, I just thought about taking each fight one at a time because some competitors were good on ground and some standing up. But yeah, I knew Rajinder and Sandeep were experienced and were cutting down to 70 kilos from higher up and on the other hand I walk around at 67 kilos and was trying to get to 70 kilos. Mentally, it was a hard thing to fight Andrew in the final because we are real good buddies.
NT: People compliment your strength and athleticism but also advise that you need to work more on protecting your upper body, especially the head. What do you have to say to that?
Issac: Ouch! Very true…! The boxing coach said the same thing. I think I had the worst boxing skills in the camp and that’s what’s needed for a good head defence.
NT: Coming from a karate background do you plan to simply stick to that or do you have plans to increase your repertoire say by improving your ground game through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or maybe widen your striking skills through Muay Thai, for example?
Issac: I can’t really say I had a martial arts background because the karate classes I attended was as a kid when I was six or seven years old. MMA in itself has evolved as a fighting style and I think I should try and adopt it. But yeah, I need to majorly improve my striking game so, have to work on my boxing.
NT: What’s next for you and when are we going to see you in the ring again and where?
Issac: Right after the show was over, I underwent a LASIK surgery and have been recovering from that. I’ll be leaving for Mumbai in the next few days to get back into shape. I have asked SFL to let me compete at 65 kilos as I am more comfortable there and hopefully fight a couple of SFL Friday fight nights this month which happen in Mumbai.
NT: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years in terms of your newfound career? Can we hope to see you in the UFC one day?
Issac: Winning the show meant getting a 3 years contract to fight for SFL and that limits me from competing in any other MMA events. I just hope I stay hungry for more after that.
NT: In your opinion who is the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter today irrespective of the weight category? Why?
Issac: First fighter on my mind is Fedor Emelianenko, “the last emperor”. He really deserves his nickname though he retired this year. There are a lot of good names today but pound for pound, I think GSP (George St Pierre) is awesome. He is well rounded both in standup and ground game. He’s a pure athlete.
NT: At what level would you place MMA in India today?
Issac: A lot of big names have competed at the SFL events and that is creating a lot of curiosity from abroad. MMA is relatively new in India but I believe it’s here to stay. SFL has a lot of bollywood glamour, which could work in different ways but that sure makes a statement.
NT: Please tell us a little more about your martial arts background. How did it all start for you?
Issac: I’m more of a fitness buff and played a lot of sports growing up. I love basketball, “wasted” my college days playing it! Personally, I hate violence; it’s purely a passion for sports. It’s just my opinion but for me MMA is the ultimate sport and so decided to explore it. I knew I didn’t want to look back in life and wished I had given myself a chance.
NT: You had a nice cushy job at Jet Airways which you gave up to enter new unchartered territories. There must have been many naysayers at the start. How do you feel about it now?
Issac: My previous job gave me a chance to experience different things but I wanted more out of life. Initially, friends and family weren’t sure if it was a wise decision. My mom especially… she keeps telling me to give up even now. Heard that from her even yesterday! It wasn’t an easy decision for me as well…Lack of combat sports experience, job security and just before the show, I had dislocated my shoulder and was just recovering from it. But as I see it now, I’m happy with where I am.
NT: What would be your advice for young aspiring fighters who want to follow in your footsteps and participate in future competitions?
Issac: Keep it simple…With a little faith in God, I think anyone aspiring to follow the sport or anything should ask themselves why they really want it and then believe in their own reason. The mental outlook is really important. Be disciplined enough to accept “Die in training, live in the cage” kind of life. I say, if one has a dream, live it!
NT: Thank you so much for your time, Isaac. We wish you all the best and hope that you will bring even greater glory to your people.