Gurdarshan Mangat's Long, Hard Road To ONE Championship

Canadian-Indian MMA figher Gurdarshan Mangat

Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat’s path to The Home Of Martial Arts was long and filled with obstacles.

The Indian athlete had to overcome trials and tribulations to break boundaries and scrape by in his early life and career, but he has been rewarded for his courage, hard work, and dedication.

Now he has found himself on the global stage as his nation’s best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts athlete and its best hope for a World Champion in the sport.

Ahead of his sophomore appearance in ONE Championship against Abro “The Black Komodo” Fernandes at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY, see how “Saint Lion” has emerged from his struggles to become one of the most exciting flyweights on the planet.

Childhood Responsibility

India's top mixed martial artist Gurdarshan Gary "Saint Lion" Mangat doesn't settle for average! He takes on surging…

Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, June 24, 2019

Mangat was born in the small town of Williams Lake in British Columbia – the son of first-generation Indian immigrants.

His parents moved to provide a better life for their children, but they found themselves in a foreign environment, and even though he was just a child, the burden fell on their son to help them settle.

“When they came to Canada, they didn’t know any English. Therefore, I knew no English,” he explains.

“Up until grade two or three, I was learning English when I was in school and bringing that back home to teach my parents. So by the age of 6, I was a teacher of English in the home.”

He grew up in a small community, in which he had the same core group of friends for the majority of his upbringing.

The Indian kids stuck together, but Mangat was still picked on and he was never very confident.

“I was always the shortest kid, I was teased, and I never hit my growth spurt through high school. I was always the easy target for those types of things,” he admits.

“I never made the basketball team, I was always the equipment manager. I was always a kid who would try to please others, but I never really believed in myself.”

Inspired To Grow

Through martial arts, India's top mixed martial artist Gurdarshan Mangat made his dreams come true!

Through martial arts, India's top mixed martial artist Gurdarshan Gary "Saint Lion" Mangat made his dreams come true! 🗓: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY🎟: Get your tickets at 👉📺: Check local listings for global TV broadcast📱: Watch on the ONE Super App 👉 👨‍💻: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter

Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, June 28, 2019

It was not until Mangat moved to Vancouver at the age of 18 that his life took a giant turn.

He had moved to the city to become an accountant, but his head was soon turned by his new passion in life, and a role model who is now the Vice President of the company he competes for.

“Somehow, mixed martial arts found me. A big part of that was because Rich Franklin was fighting,” he explains.

“I always believed that mixed martial artists were raised from birth to be these warriors – not knowing that he was a part-time high school teacher and fighting for a World Title.”

On the same card that he saw Franklin compete, a fellow Canadian was in action, too – Kalib Starnes.

Mangat printed some directions to find Starnes’ gym, Revolution Fight Team, but at first, he struggled to find it.

“I was literally one minute away from giving up looking for it, and I always think about that moment,” says “Saint Lion.”

“Had I given up, would I have ever gone back to look for it, and where my life would have gone? Here we are 10 years later.”

Heart Of A Champion

The most devastating loss of his life propelled India's top mixed martial artist, Gurdarshan Gary "Saint Lion" Mangat,…

Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, July 1, 2019

It was not long before Mangat decided his new pursuit would be his full-time concern.

However, that did not sit well with his parents, who were upset he would sacrifice the guarantee of a secure future in an established profession for something so dangerous. Luckily, he had his grandfather in his corner.

“To go from this very secure future that could have been set, where I had a bi-weekly paycheck and had a couple of vacations a year, to calling them one day to tell them I wanted to do this mixed martial arts thing with no prior background, it backfired a lot on me at the start,” he explains.

“My parents had moved me to a nice house in Vancouver, and they were ready to take it all away, but when my grandpa saw my first few fights, he told my dad, ‘Never stop him from doing this – look at him, he has passion.’”

Mangat’s commitment was tested in his first match, but he came through a broken nose, a cracked rib, an asthma attack, and other injuries to realize he had the warrior spirit he needed to succeed.

He knew a career in this sport would be hard, but he wanted to challenge himself.

“I went to the Indian temple that night and thought to myself, ‘Every time something gets tough, I walk away from it. I’m never doing this again.’ I was ready to pick up my books and go back to accounting,” he concedes.

“Instead, I took it one day at a time. It was the toughest thing I had done, so let’s see what we can do. That is still my mantra – one day at a time.”

Into The Light

Indian hero Gurdarshan Mangat lives up to the hype in his ONE debut, knocking out former World Title challenger Toni Tauru at 1:23 of Round 3! 🇮🇳

Indian hero Gurdarshan Gary "Saint Lion" Mangat lives up to the hype in his ONE debut, knocking out former World Title challenger Toni Tauru at 1:23 of Round 3! 🇮🇳Watch the full event on the ONE Super App 👉 | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast

Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, March 8, 2019

Even as he worked his way through the ranks, “Saint Lion’s” struggles were not over. He had to battle depression after some family tragedy, but he had learned to live with it through the help of his loved ones and his own strength of will.

Though he says he has not conquered his battle with mental health – he says he still deals with it every single day – he is now a different and stronger person because of it.

The 32-year-old is now coming off a tremendous third-round TKO of Toni Tauru in March in his ONE debut, and he is ready to move forward with his career to great things on the global stage for martial arts.

“The weird thing is, I’ve never looked back, I just keep trying to move forward,” he adds.

“I didn’t think I would actually end up here, especially during those depression times. I wish could go back and tell that kid, ‘Look you’re going to be at ONE. Be patient and ride through the waves and darkness.’

“I just want to have fun. Mixed martial arts is hard because you’re always nervous to slip up and go two steps back, and not make it to a top promotion. I’m finally at a place where I can look at my contract and say I can go in there and do what I always wanted to do.

“I can go all-out – I don’t have to play it safe. Give me whatever guy you want and I’m not worried. I’ve made it to the point that I wanted to, and now it’s time to go out there and challenge myself.”

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