Randy Couture, a UFC stalwart of the Nineties. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: As someone who would wake up each day to the all-too-familiar sounds of boxers training outside my family home in Bangalore (not Bengaluru then!), it was inevitable that I would fall in love with combat sports.

I remember searching of something that would characterise my life - and sport was the first passion that consumed me.

My dad was an inspirational figure and the experiences that I shared with him enriched my world and made my life more interesting and meaningful.

Even before books, boxing was something I could indentify with. I would faithfully wake up early each day to watch the troupe of army boxers go through their training routines highlighted by shadow boxing in the park outside my front gate.

And although I must confess that I did not take up boxing myself (I didn’t want to get my nose smashed), I would regularly attend boxing tournaments (and there were many) with my dad.

I would also listen to stories about greats like Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Rey Leonard, Julio Cezar Chavez, Jack Dempsey and wondered what it would have been like to have sat ringside when Ali defeated Joe Frazier in what is now known as the ‘Fight of the Century’ or Buster Dougles whipped Mike Tyson and Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns went toe-to-toe, shot-for-shot in a fight that was afterwards referred to as ‘war.’

A file photo of the famous bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Then along came our first television set in tow with a VHS recorder and I was soon living my dream - watching recordings of epic boxing matches. I still remember what an exhilerating experience it was.

However, the passion would soon start to wane after I ran out of recordings once ABC and CBS stopped showing all the big fights post the Mike Tyson era. That’s when I discovered MMA and more importantly, the UFC. It is possibly unfair to say that I dumped boxing in favour of the far more entertaining contests in the UFC octagon.

Fighters like Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Anthony Norueira were doing for me what Ali and Sugar Ray did during my early boxing fixation days.

I will be the first to acknowledge that UFC is a far more brutal sport than boxing is, but when a skilled mixed martial arts fighter takes on a fighter with lesser skills there is still a balance, given the variety of technigues and styles that one can draw from in defence or offence.

Any sports needs great athletes and MMA has given us some of the best fighters over the last 25 years since it became an official sport in 1993.

And there will be more coming through the ranks, like Weili Zhang who last weekend produced one of the biggest upsets in the women’s division when she annihilated reigning champion Jessica Andrade in China in just 42 seconds.

That’s all it took, but it made for adrenaline-charged viewing. And that’s what makes me a UFC devotee!