Even though MMA or mixed martial arts bouts have been taking place throughout the world since the 1900s, the sport has only recently gained massive popularity in the West with organisations like UFC and Pride promoting fights in a huge way.Also Read - Win Against Itsuki Hirata Can Put an Indian Woman on Global MMA Stage: Ritu Phogat

Even in India which is Cricket-crazy country, suddenly the less popular sports like wrestling, mixed martial arts and badminton are in focus, thanks to Olympic victories and cinematic endeavours. Also Read - WATCH | UFC Star Khabib Nurmagomedov's Friendly Fight With Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford Goes Viral

MMA is going to have the franchise based league in India that will feature eight teams, being organised in association with the All India Martial Arts Association (AIMMAA) and will commence with the opening ceremony on 20th January 2017 and continue till 25th February 2017. Also Read - India MMA Star Ritu Phogat Beats Nou Srey Pov to Win Third Straight Title | WATCH VIDEO

A hard-hitting combat sport, MMA involves striking and grappling—it doesn’t matter if the two competitors are standing or not—the opponent with a combination of techniques borrowed from other forms of martial arts. Wrestling, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, karate, judo, etc, all forms are an important part of MMA, with different components having different philosophies.

Previously, India’s first mixed martial arts promotion, Super Fight League – promoted by British business magnate and sports enthusiast Mr. Bill Dosanjh and British professional boxing sensation and two-time world champion Amir Khan announced Sony Pictures Network India (SPN) as the official broadcast partner for the first ever MMA league to be hosted in India.

The fights will be broadcast live on SONY ESPN and SONY ESPN HD channels while the opening ceremony will be shown live on Sony MAX. SPN also has the broadcast rights for the league across Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives.

“After cricket, MMA is the second most-watched sport online in India today,” says Bill Dosanjh, principal founder and CEO, SFL. “Sixty percent of our population in the next 10 years is going to be under the age of 24 years, and MMA connects with the youth.”

A total of 96 fighters—from India and abroad—will fight in the league and represent teams from New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai, Haryana, Bengaluru, Punjab, Pune and Goa. Each team will have nine Indian fighters and three international ones.

The fights in the league will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will be broadcast from 7-9 PM over the weekend and can also be streamed live on SonyLIV.

In India, competitions like the Full Contact Championship have been keeping the sport alive. The emergence of fight clubs that teach MMA has also played a key role in getting the sport to the masses. “We haven’t yet reached the level of cricket, but MMA is growing quickly. It’s in films like Sultan as well.. it’s getting bigger,” says Siddharth Singh, founder and CEO, Crosstrain Fight Club, an MMA fight club.