Rajinder Singh Meena was the SFL’s first ever 155-pound champion and one of the Indian promotion’s biggest homegrown stars, but he has endured a frustrating year with no opportunities to improve upon his impressive 8-1 record.
On Friday, Meena’s 12-month wait will be over as he makes his debut for Asia’s biggest MMA promotion, taking on Malaysian star Peter Davis in one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts on the card at ONE: Age of Champions.
After facing Indian opposition throughout his career to date, Meena will be taking on an international opponent for the first time and is excited about the opportunity to test himself against a ONE Championship veteran.
“ONE FC is a very big league in Asia and for me and other Indians it is a big achievement to fight in ONE FC. (Davis) is very good fighter, but I have to give my best and feel I am the best. It’s gonna be a very tough fight for me, but I’ll prove myself.”
Meena started to make a name for himself fighting for the Mumbai based Full Contact Championship promotion at a time when the idea of Bollywood celebrities sinking millions of dollars into Indian MMA would have seemed fanciful.
When the Super Fight League burst onto the scene, FCC graciously agreed to release him from his contract and he would go on to become the promotion’s inaugural 155-pound champion, but then the fight offers came to an abrupt halt.
“When SFL started in 2012, I got excited and happy that such a big platform has been started in India for MMA fighters and felt that league was going to be a new beginning for MMA. When SFL has closed, I felt sorry for myself as a fighter and for all Indian MMA fighters because it was very disappointing and broke our hearts.”
When SFL ceased operations in India after having put on around 30 events in the space of a year, it left an entire roster of fighters on the shelf and, with no further opportunities to compete and get paid through MMA, many stopped training and returned to their day jobs.
However, Meena also had a successful career in kickboxing, amateur boxing, and Wushu to fall back on, and said he continued to dedicate himself to martial arts despite the SFL’s demise.
“I am full-time fighter and presently I do my training at the Delhi Wushu Academy. I have won many tournaments and competitions for Wushu, including five times in the Indian National Championship, and I am also two-time Indian National Kickboxing Champion and have won medals in boxing.”
It means Meena has been staying active by training every day and competing in Wushu, while waiting for the moment to resume his MMA career. When the call finally came, the 29-year-old was ready and grateful to seize the opportunity.
“After achieving the SFL championship, I wanted to go on to an international platform and ONE FC is one of the biggest platforms in the world for MMA. Succeeding as a professional for ONE FC means money and fame.”
Indian fighters haven’t fared well for ONE Championship, but Meena’s experience and accomplishments are of a completely different caliber to any of his compatriots who have tried their luck so far. He comes into his promotional debut with a high caliber record having already won a title in MMA.
Meena’s record is roughly on a par with that of Davis and after enjoying so much success in domestic competition the Indian will be looking to establish himself on the international scene with a win at ONE FC: Age of Champions.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)