It may be considered a rated-R show for most parents but the popularity of the television show, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is fast picking up.

With the growing recognition for the sport in the country, a replica of the UFC style bouts, the Bhutan Fighting Championship, is all set to take place in Thimphu towards the end of this year.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) has taken the world by storm and it was only a matter of time before the sport came to the country. To prepare for the big fight-night, the Bhutan Mixed Martial Arts Association (BMMAA) was formed earlier this year.

The promoter of the association, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that its been a long time coming that Bhutan started its own form of MMA competitions. “The popularity of MMA around the world is growing and given the talents we have in the country, its high time we started our own.”

Bhutan today has two federations and associations each involved in grooming youth in different forms of martial arts. The Bhutan Taekwondo Federation and Bhutan Boxing Federation are two of the first federations to be affiliated with the Bhutan Olympic Committee.

Judo and Karate Associations have also made their mark representing the country in some of the regional competitions. However, Ugyen Wangchuk said that given the experience of some of the martial artists trained under these bodies, it was time that Bhutanese athletes took a step further into MMA by merging all the skills together.

“The charm of martial arts in losing now. It has become more of medal winning sports than martial arts,” said Ugyen Wangchuk, adding that the sport today is more focused on points than knockouts, the real attraction in any martial arts genera.

However, the excitement for the MMA fight is at the time plagued with concerns over it being unsafe for individuals involved. “We are aware of this issue but which contact sport has no risk in it,” he said. “More than the risk if we are able to start the MMA fight here, it would be an opportunity for many to showcase their skills.”

He said that in the beginning, all precautionary measures will be considered including protective gear that will be used during fights. “We will have full protection in the initial stages of our fights,” he said, adding that along with the years of experience they have in individual martial arts, interested individuals will undergo adequate training under a professional MMA trainer.

Ugyen Wangchuk said that his team has received positive feedback on the introduction of MMA in the country. “People should know MMA is a technical sport and is as safe as any other sports they know of. It is an opportunity for the youth to showcase their talents.”

MMA is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking, punching, grappling and kicking both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts.

Younten Tshedup