She had just recovered from a knee surgery and has been struggling to make ends meet like most sportsperson from Manipur. But Laishram Surbala Devi brought home India’s first gold medal at Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) World Championship 2021.
Having had a knee surgery in 2019, the world champion had halted her training for almost two years. Despite her difficult condition, 23-year-old Surbala from Khangabok of Thoubal district was unstoppable from achieving gold at the GAMMA World Championship. This was her first match after recovering from knee surgery.
With her spirit of dedication burning bright, Surbala clinched gold medal at the GAMMA World Championship 2021 held in March 2022 at Amsterdam and scripted history in the chapter of MMA in India.
“Being able to win gold at the GAMMA championship is the biggest achievement of my career, which is possible because of my parents and gurus who inspired and supported me, even though I had just recovered from a knee surgery,” Surbala said while speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press.
Surbala defeated Tomiris Zhussupova of Kazakhstan in the finals via decision and bagged the gold in the GAMMA championship. GAMMA is the global governing body for MMA, encompassing men, women, and youth participation and competition.
After the big win, the gold medallist plans to further her MMA career by playing in the pro category.
“It is just the start of my career. I am planning to move ahead in my MMA career by playing in the pro category,” Surbala, who is also a graduate in Biochemistry, told IFP.
Born to L Chandra Singh and L Ongbi Anita Devi as a second child among three siblings, Surbala was inspired by legendary boxer of Manipur Ngangom Dingko Singh and stepped into the world of kickboxing in 2010. She was only 12 years old then.
During her eight years’ career of kickboxing, she had bagged the title of world championship in the WKF K1 Kickboxing Woman Amateur World Championship, 2018; 13 gold medals and one bronze medal in different national level competitions.
In 2018, Surbala shifted her discipline from Kickboxing to MMA and started playing as an amateur player which is presently gaining popularity since the last five-six years.
During her debuting year in MMA, Surbala had earned the title of Manipur Fight League in women category and runner-up in Shillong Cage Fighting championship. Since then, she has won two gold medals in international championships (including the GAMMA championship) and one gold medal at the national level.
The GAMMA Champion is undergoing her training in Bengaluru, Karnataka. She is also giving MMA classes to earn her living.
“As the fees I charge for giving MMA classes is not sufficient to live in Bengaluru and bear the expenses for my diet. I always ask my parents for financial help,” Surbala said.
Her father being a retired lab technician and mother being a part time weaver, Surbala has been facing frequent financial issues since the starting of her kick-boxing career, she said.
The state government has done a lot for uplifting sportspersons of Manipur as maximum of the players comes from financially weaker sections, she said.
The gold medallist, however, draws the attention of the state government to give more emphasis in games and sports as there are many who have great potential but are not getting the opportunity to explore due to financial issues.
Apart from kickboxing, Surbala loves to dance and try out different cuisines. “I love to watch dance and taste variety of foods,” she said, adding she sometimes dances alone.
In a word of encouragement to the youths of Manipur, Surbala said: “Do not waste your time. Seek proper advice from your mentors. Give your full effort in your track whether it may be arts, sports, education or any. It will automatically lead to success”.