Fight on!

WITH a scar running down his left cheek, you would’ve thought that Theebaan Govindasamy got it from his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. After all, he is the current Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA) welterweight champion.

The truth, nonetheless, is less glamorous; for he acquired the 32stitch scar from a bicycle accident when he was two years old.

“Whenever people ask me about it, I usually say I got it from a fight because it’s a good fighting credential,” he said before laughing it off.

Similar to this anecdote, Theebaan explained that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to MMA.

“For many, violence is their first impression of MMA, but it’s actually just like any other sport – there are rules to follow as well as a referee to mediate, control and judge the match.”

A full-contact combat sport, MMA is a “mixture of any kind of martial arts, so long as you know what you’re doing and you execute it properly”. And it is this sport that the 27-year-old found refuge in after leaving his oldtime passion, karate.

“My parents started me on karate when I was five because they wanted me to learn how to defend myself. I then went on to join the national karate team for seven years before calling it quits in 2013. From thereon, I have been a professional MMA fighter.”

Tell us about your MMA record.
It currently stands at seven wins and three losses. To be frank, I lost my first ever fight. That was soon after I quit karate and before I did proper MMA training, so I didn’t know what to expect. I only wanted to try it out to see how it goes.

Considering it was your maiden fight, was it discouraging to lose?
I wasn’t demotivated because I’ve experienced losses in karate before. However, since I was new in the sport back then, I panicked when my opponent choked me and instantly surrendered. Nevertheless, it was thrilling and made me yearn for more.

Is there any limitations to what you can and cannot do ?
As I have mentioned, MMA has its own set of rules that a fighter needs to follow. For example, during the sparring, you cannot hit the opponent’s groin or the back of his head.

Since MMA is a full-contact sport, what are the chances for injuries?
You’ll definitely get some form of injuries – be it a bruised eye or an aching finger – but the severity depends. The worst that I have gotten from MMA is post-traumatic arthritis. Meanwhile, although karate is not as violent, I’ve had ACL reconstructive surgery on my right knee and a complete reconstructive surgery on the left. This shows that injuries are common in any sport.

What is your biggest takeaway from MMA?
A lot of people think that MMA is all about the fighting, but this is not necessarily the case. Ultimately, MMA is about learning martial arts and martial art is about discipline – controlling your feelings and actions. In fact, MMA has given me peace of mind by shaping my judgment on when to fight, and that is always within the ring. Unless you are already under attack and need to defend yourself, there’s no excuse for not walking away.