Everybody, because the saying goes, has a plan till they’re punched within the face. When the second got here, Gurpreet Singh was shocked how effectively he took the well-connected hook to his jaw. It was a number of months in the past, no more than a minute into Singh’s first sparring session at Singapore’s Evolve Health club the place the 28-year-old former Indian worldwide wrestler is coaching to be a combined martial arts fighter.
“I’ve skilled all my life as a wrestler. There are not any strikes allowed there. So the primary time you get punched within the face, it comes as a shock. For that first second you simply pause. However then you definitely keep on. You understand lagna hello hai. Agar dar jaoge, you freeze aur fir aur khane padenge. Lag gaya lag gaya (you already know you’re going to get hit. However in case you get scared, you’ll freeze and can get hit much more) However it’s a must to proceed. Abhi toh bohot khane hain (I’ll need to take much more punches),” he says.
Whereas he’ll look to keep away from as many as he can, there will probably be many extra punches in Gurpreet’s future plans now, as he strikes to combined martial arts. Indian combat followers will probably be hoping a few of his success on the mat will switch to the octagon the place Gurpreet’s signed a coaching contract with Singapore’s Evolve with the expectation that he’ll finally characteristic in ONE Championship combat promotion. “I’ve come right here to be a world champion. In any respect prices,” he says.
Former U-23 World silver medallist Ritu Phogat (7-2) has already traversed the worldwide wrestler to One Championship by way of Evolve pathway however Singh would be the highest profile Indian males’s wrestler to do the identical. Gurpreet although is definitely essentially the most completed Indian wrestler to make the leap into combined martial arts. He’s a silver medalist within the 77kg Greco-Roman class on the 2019 Asian Championships, a gold medallist on the Commonwealth Championships and has victories over Olympic and world champions.
For Gurpreet the plan was some time within the making. “After I was a child I used to get into quite a lot of fights at college. The truth is the explanation why my father put me into wrestling was as a result of he felt I ought to attempt to use my aggression within the correct approach. However now that I’m truly preventing once more, it appears like I’ve gone again to my roots,” he says.
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His formal introduction to combined martial arts would come later. “I had began following combined martial arts since 2014. It’s a recreation the place your mindset must be very sturdy. It’s important to be mentally very powerful. It’s one thing that I felt I wished to do as effectively,” he says.
Gurpreet largely stored the thought to himself for a few years as he regarded to construct on a promising wrestling profession and fulfill his purpose of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. But the draw combat recreation by no means went away. In 2020, he went to the Evolve facility in Singapore to check waters. He additionally spoke to Phogat who had already made her MMA debut. “I’d already wished to combat MMA earlier than Ritu fought in ONE Championship however after I was in Singapore, I requested her what the challenges had been. However she was very encouraging,” he says.
FILE PHOTO: Gurpreet Singh (proper) after his victory over two-time World Junior Championships medallist Sajan Bhanwal throughout a bout at Tata Motors Wrestling Championships 2019. – PTI
Gurpreet’s authentic plan was to make the change after the Tokyo Olympics, a prospect that bought delayed following the Video games postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of his greatest efforts – he’d twice beat the 2012 Olympic champion Kim Hyeon Woo and likewise beat 2017 World Champion Viktor Nemes – Gurpeet would fall simply wanting Olympic qualification dropping to the eventual Tokyo silver medalist Akhzol Makhmudov and bronze medallist Rafig Huseynov on the Asian and World Olympic qualifiers.
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Failure to qualify planted a seed of doubt in his thoughts however he finally selected to shut the chapter on his wrestling profession. “It was very disappointing to not qualify for the Olympics. It was at all times a dream however I knew that I couldn’t give one other 4 years to wrestling. I knew I had to select. It’s important to give 100% to no matter you selected and so I made a decision to pursue MMA,” he says. It was a name that has drawn combined reactions from his compatriots. “Lots of them suggested me to not. They mentioned that I used to be simply reaching my peak as a wrestler. They felt I used to be giving all of it away and going and beginning one thing new,” he says.
Whereas MMA is certainly one thing new for Gurpreet, he additionally is aware of he received’t be beginning fully from scratch. With among the greatest MMA fighters coming from a wrestling background like he does, he’s additionally assured he’s bought a robust base to work on. “Wrestling is among the greatest martial arts to assist construct your self as an MMA fighter. (Former UFC champions) Khabib Nurmagumedov, Daniel Cormier, (present pound for pound no 1) Kamaru Usman all have a wrestling background. There’s one thing about wrestling that makes us good fighters. We maintain pushing and grinding,” he says.
Whereas wrestling pedigree will certainly assist his profession, it’s no assure for fulfillment. There have been quite a lot of excessive profile Greco-Roman wrestlers, who’ve discovered themselves unable to make the transition to MMA. Former World champion Amir Aliakbari of Iran for instance is at present on a two-fight dropping streak in ONE Championships, after being knocked out throughout punching exchanges.
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That’s a weak point in his personal recreation Gurpreet is aware of he has to plug. Whereas his wrestling abilities permit him to be snug taking the combat to the bottom, Gurpreet is engaged on his standing recreation. “I’ve quite a lot of work to do to get higher in my hanging. Punching remains to be one thing that involves me as a result of we do quite a lot of handfighting in Greco-Roman wrestling however leg kicks is a bit laborious. It’s a movement I’ve by no means needed to do in wrestling. But it surely’s not inconceivable to select up. After I spar, I don’t really feel that I’m very weak. Actually, it’s lots simpler to study hanging in 5 or 6 months than wrestling. You possibly can’t even study a stance appropriately in that a lot time,” he says.
Gurpreet Singh is assured he’s bought a robust base to work on. – United World Wrestling
Gurpreet is aware of a lot is predicted of him. “Proper now there will probably be nearly no MMA fighter in Asia who has the sort of wrestling background I’ve. The truth is when (Punjabi origin Canadian ONE heavyweight champion) Arjan Bhullar knew that I’ve began working with Evolve, he was actually glad as a result of there’s one other pehelwan in MMA. There’s a bit little bit of stress for positive however I’ve to make use of my expertise in wrestling and use it to get higher on this sport,” he says.
As he appears to be like to develop his combat craft, Gurpreet is aware of there’s no going again. “I’ve lots to enhance on however proper now I’m assured sufficient to combat at the very least as soon as this 12 months. I’m fully decided about that. I can’t say after a number of weeks that I wish to return into wrestling. I’m enhancing little by little each day that I’m right here. I do know that if I put in my greatest effort, there’s no motive I can not be champion. I’ve come right here to be a world champion. I’ll do no matter it takes to attain that,” he says.