Gurdarshan Mangat never expected to find love while watching fights in a sports bar, but sometimes, life has a way of making improbable connections happen.
The Canadian-Indian sensation – who returns to the Circle in a flyweight MMA contest against Yodkaikaew Fairtex at ONE 158 on Friday, 3 June – met his future wife, Chandni, on a solo excursion to catch some evening entertainment in an unfamiliar city.
“Saint Lion” was certainly not intending to find his partner that night. Here, he recalls the unlikely story and explains how Chandni has become an essential part of his success ever since.
‘Can We Change The Channel?’
Back in January 2013, Mangat was training in Montreal, Canada, far from his home in Vancouver. With no friends or family in the city, he went out alone to watch his mixed martial arts idol, Vitor Belfort, compete at a nearby sports bar.
However, most of the crowd was there to watch hockey, and his plan almost fell apart when a young woman asked the staff to turn off the fights.
“Saint Lion” quickly stepped in to save his viewing experience. He was going against the grain, but by explaining MMA to the disgruntled patron, he stumbled across his true love.
“I had moved to the other side of Canada to train at Tristar Gym. I knew nobody there, and I went to a sports pub to watch the fights. Vitor Belfort was fighting that day, but everybody else was there to watch a very popular hockey game, including Chandni,” Mangat recalls.
“Chandni happened to be sitting next to me at the bar at that time, and she couldn’t watch the hockey game from where she was sitting, but she could see the Vitor Belfort fight. She asked the bartenders, ‘Can we change the channel? These guys are just laying on each other, and I don’t want to watch this.’
“Me being a mixed martial artist, I understood what was happening, and I felt the need to jump in and educate her on what MMA was. That’s how me and her started talking.”
Mangat’s efforts were partly to help his future wife know what was happening on the screen – but they were mostly because he didn’t want to miss any of the combat sports action.
Still, that moment served as the catalyst for a chain of events that changed his life forever.
“We became friends from that one conversation. That friendship grew into a relationship, and she is now my wife, but it all started from watching MMA at a sports bar where I was watching my favorite fighter, Vitor Belfort, fight. That’s how it all began.”Gurdarshan Mangat recalls the unlikely meeting that eventually led to his marriage
‘Saint Lion’ And His ‘Lioness’
Back then, Mangat was struggling to make ends meet as a professional fighter while putting all of his resources into his dream of reaching the big leagues.
That didn’t deter Chandni. Instead, she became one of the main reasons that “Saint Lion” pushed forward through those difficult early days and now owns a stellar 16-3 professional record.
“Chandni was there for me when I had no money to my name. She was the one with a stable job. I had absolutely nothing. I was completely broke, and she still had income coming in, and she used that to buy my groceries,” the flyweight reveals.
“She used to pick me up from training at times when I was completely done with it. I started thinking, ‘This is not going to work, mixed martial arts is not for me. I need to go and find a stable job in Montreal.’
“I had gone through some injuries, so I wasn’t able to train. I couldn’t get a job, and she supported me. She stood by me, she believed in me, and she held me up at times when I didn’t believe in myself.”
That devotion and faith are why Mangat refers to Chandni as his “lioness.”
He sees her as an indispensable part of his career – a person who made things possible and kept him motivated when the chips were down.
Without her by his side, the British Columbia native might never have made it to the global stage, where he’s been given the chance to reach millions with his skills and courage.
“I believe that there can be no lion without the lioness because a lioness is the one who stands beside the lion and gives him strength.
“That’s what Chandni has been to me. She has been the compassionate one who told me how big this can all become, and she has helped me out when I failed. Without her, I don’t know what kind of path I would have gone down.”Mangat is forever grateful for his relationship with Chandni
Gurdarshan Mangat’s Keys To Relationship Success
Mangat wouldn’t claim to be any sort of relationship guru, but he’s managed to glean some things from his own experience.
For starters, he knows it takes a certain sort of person to live their life alongside a professional athlete. Thankfully, Chandni had the necessary traits that helped her endure the negative impacts of his career.
“You must have a strong partner that can understand and go through it with you. Without a strong partner, the whole thing can fall apart,” the 35-year-old says.
“If you’re always stressed in your relationship, then you can’t perform in what you’re supposed to do. But if your relationship can have a common understanding, you can get a lot of success in your fighting because, if that is balanced, then you can focus more on your training.”
More generally, “Saint Lion” learned that your soulmate can be a completely distinct person with interests that are nothing alike, and yet, you can still find common ground in your love for one another.
Trying to force a partner into a mold will not work. Instead, Mangat believes that a truly great relationship comes from recognizing the divergence between the personalities involved and accepting them wholeheartedly.
At the same time, it’s not a piece of the puzzle that can be solved overnight. But with careful consideration, that individuality can help a relationship thrive.
“In the first few years, we realized that we are two very different people with two very different minds, and I think there was a point where we were trying to make each other into the person that we were.
“Now, we’ve realized that the best thing that’s in our relationship is just how different she and I are. That is how differently I think, and how differently she thinks.
“Communication is a huge thing, and just trying to understand each other. It’s always a work in progress. You have got to put in time for almost the rest of your life. You must learn how to balance it and prioritize what’s truly important.”Mangat breaks down the essential components to his life with Chandni