The Super Fight League (SFL) reality television show, "Challengers," is set to debut in 10 day's time as millionaire backers Sanjay Dutt and Raj Kundra continue to sink money into the Indian mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. The format looks set to be similar to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) "Ultimate Fighter" reality show in that it will be based around 16 fighters in two different weight classes with televised fights every week.
Proceedings will be conducted in Hindi although hopefully a subtitled version will find its way onto the internet at some point.
There are a few recognizable names as the SFL has picked up some fighters from India's longest running promotion, the Mumbai based Full Contact Championship (FCC), including Sandeep Yadav, Rajinder Singh Meena and Jeet Toshi (last seen losing to Nicole Chua at ONE Fighting Championship: 'War of the Lions').
At present, the FCC fighters appear to be the only ones in the competition with professional experience (although my knowledge of Indian MMA is by no means comprehensive). The female bracket is likely to be held at around 48 kgs and the male bracket at around 70 kgs, judging from the listed weights of the fighters.
The following is from the Super Fight League website:
SFL "Challengers" is a reality television series that follows a group of MMA fighters as they compete with one another in an elimination-style competition, where their lives and relationships with each other and their families are depicted.
This unscripted drama follows 16 aspiring MMA fighters (8 girls and 8 boys) whose fates are tied along right from the first episode by none other than Mr. Raj Kundra. Every fighter will have to live, train and compete with his or her opponents and friends to become the ultimate challenger for the esteemed "Super Fight League".
The episodes are gripping and full of surprises for the viewer as well as the fighters. The fighters get a chance to earn money through the challenges that are thrown to them and earn respect by winning the fights assigned to them. Every alternate episode has 2 fights where 2 fighters (male and female) graduate to the next round whereas the other two have to leave the camp.
Along the way, we see what motivates these fighters to risk their lives in an unforgiving sport – the opportunity to give their kids a better life, a shot at fulfilling a family legacy, or the chance to triumph over a tough upbringing. The fighters train and live together, so they often bring personal grouse into the ring and sometimes have to check friendships in the ring.
The canvas of the show is much broader than MMA - it will give viewers a first hand look into the real life hopes, triumphs and defeats of the contestants. Each fight is not just a sporting event between two fighters but has a unique parallel human story… a story that will appeal to everyone… a story that everyone can identify with…
The show is all about the life, love, hope, dreams and fears of these heroes as they battle it out in a quest to become a champion. They come from across India each with a different story to tell-some heroic, some heartwarming, some inspiring…
TUF is credited with saving the UFC but was only made possible because Zuffa decided to fund it out of its own pocket. Reality TV is expensive and the success of SFL "Challengers" could make or break the SFL, the Indian audience might not be sold on the concept of MMA yet but perhaps a reality TV show could be the thing which wins them over.
The two overall winners will receive 20 Lakhs (approx. $36000/£23000), a significant sum of money in India, and a three year contract with the SFL worth 25 Lakhs. The first episode is scheduled for 5th August and the program will air at weekends on Neo Sports, a pay television sports channel, and Zoom TV, a celebrity gossip style channel dedicated to Bollywood.
After a slow start the organization is not going down without a fight and as well as the reality show there are four more events booked for 2012, starting on September 8th in Bangalore. Two heavyweight fights, Satoshi Ishii vs Jimmy Ambriz and Jeff Monson vs Todd Duffee, are on the card and the muted response to the first three shows has clearly not deterred the SFL from splashing out to secure some of the more expensive fighters on the market.
The long term future of the organization could well rest on the response to SFL "Challengers." A similar show once saved the UFC and the ambitious Indian promotion will be hoping its venture into the world of reality TV will be equally successful.