Somesh Kamra discusses future of MMA in India, gyms during COVID-19 and More

Superhuman gym
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Somesh Kamra is the co-founder of Superhuman gyms, one of India’s leading MMA facilities. He is currently also associated with Sony Network, India’s broadcaster of the UFC, as one of the hosts of the show the Ultimate Guide to UFC on Sony Pit Stop. He has been one of the promoters of the sport of MMA in India and is also the manager of India’s first-ever UFC Fighter, Bharat Kandare. He took some time out to discuss the state of MMA in India post the COVID-19 pandemic, running a gym during COVID-19 and more.

How are superhuman gyms dealing with the entire lockdown? Given the current state do you think the overall structure of gyms will see massive changes?

Well, Yes indeed. These times are challenging and every industry, including ours, is going through a massive structural change. Superhuman Gym is one of the few lucky gym brands that has survived while retaining our entire staff and paying their salaries. It hasn’t been easy, but we have done it. Our foundation from the very beginning has been to focus on a solid business and not overspend and flaunt on unnecessary marketing and associations.

It’s upsetting to see gyms chains shut overnight leaving a huge vacuum in employment. I also understand that single gym owners are finding it very difficult to cope. At this point in time, survival is the key. I truly feel the ecosystem needs to focus on survival and not profits. The landlord and the tenant need to be on the same page on the rentals as that is one of the biggest recurring expenses for any brick and mortar business.

Superhuman has been actively helping gyms stay afloat. How did this initiative come about? How are you managing to help at these times?

We have always advocated teamwork and team spirit. On a Zoom meeting with my core team, I bounced the idea of helping other gyms and my team found it crazy, amusing, and productive. We brainstormed on this deeply and felt our aim is to reach out to gym owners in distress, trainers/coaches, etc. Hear their issues and try to find solutions to the problem. Nobody is currently doing that, we are willing to employ staff that has been laid off or collaborate with gyms that are feeling the pinch. We have so far received almost 500 help requests. Each of those needs Superhuman in some way. We are analyzing each request and brainstorming on a solution case by case.  I do understand we cannot help everybody, but if we manage to even help a few, we consider it a successful campaign.

What kind of support from the government would the fitness and gym industry need after this pandemic?

In these challenging times, each industry needs to unite and find a solution that suits them best. I have a feeling the government is ready to listen and genuinely has concerns for the economy. There are some decisions that can be judged like opening some industries vs others, but at the end of the day, a government is run by humans and even they are learning about this pandemic. We cannot always hold the government accountable when we ourselves behave irresponsibly.

While it’s a proven fact that healthy, able bodies can fight the virus better, and keeping healthy is the solution, the government is weighing the pros and cons of keeping the industry open. Yes, I have heard that religious places have been allowed to open. That is a classic debate between balancing sentiments and practicality. The government would have to listen to the leading industry experts and take a call on how to help.

MMA in India was gaining popularity. With the pandemic now hitting the sports world hard, where do you think the sport goes from here in India? How long will it take to get back where the sport was?

I truly believe sports enthusiasts are craving some good content. I’m happy to be a part of the biggest MMA promotion in the world and their Indian broadcasters. Sony Sports Network has been extremely proactive in generating content and the team is always working towards grooming the sport. UFC on the other hand are go-getters putting up shows, going to islands, setting up infrastructure, and taking on the world. The combination couldn’t be better for India. For the other sports, it’s more like a 3-month detox. I however believe the graph for sports will only move upwards from here on.

What are the long term changes do you see in the sport? What are your thoughts on the UFC still running live events?

UFC has shown why they are the industry leaders. While all sports organizations completely shut off, UFC altered their business model, accepted certain losses, and put up shows. They changed the way broadcast deals are done and I’m sure other sporting organizations would follow. The aim is to always look for solutions while adapting and constantly evolving.  UFC running live events is always positive. They take the utmost care of the staff, the crew, the fighters, etc, and have made sure the environment is safe for everybody in the office and arena. Doing all this while not cutting fighters pay, or cutting staff or staff pay is a commendable thing.

You currently have a show on SONY sports. How did that take place? What was the idea behind the show?

I have been involved with the UFC for some time now. The aim was to always do something in India. The three-way conversation between myself, UFC, and Sony was constantly running, from Hindi commentary to the Ultimate Guide to UFC to Sony Pit Stop. As mentioned earlier, the team at Sony is proactive, and developing MMA is on their radar.
I’m lucky that Sony involves me in the brainstorming sessions to develop the UFC and MMA in India. Currently, we have the Ultimate Guide to UFC running on Sony Sports India Facebook page which is a show we host after every UFC Fight Night.

Sony Pit Stop is a show that welcomes an MMA personality as a guest along with the three of us. That too airs on Facebook and has a podcast feel to it. We’ve had Bruce Buffer, Herb Dean, Bryan Caraway, Jeff Novitzky, etc as guests and a lot more lined up.
Once the lockdown ends, we will continue with the studio shows on the PPV’s.
The fans can expect a lot more great UFC and MMA content coming their way on Sony Sports.