Throughout his life, India’s Roshan Mainam has had a primary goal – to lift his family out of poverty.
Thanks to martial arts, the wrestling sensation has found the means to provide for the people he loves the most and bring glory to his country.
Following a career as a state champion wrestler, the 23-year-old has joined one of the world’s top mixed martial arts teams, and now he has the chance to make his mark on the global stage in his ONE Championship debut against Khon Sichan at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE.
Ahead of the biggest bout of his career next Friday, 8 November, in Manila, Philippines, the Evolve representative reveals the journey he has taken in search of a better life.
Mainam and his three siblings were raised by his parents in Thoubal, a small town in the Indian state of Manipur.
As he was growing up, his father’s health was deteriorating, which meant his mother went to work at a mill as the family’s primary breadwinner.
Mainam also tended cattle and did odd jobs to help with the cost of his father’s medical expenses, which had taken a severe toll on the family finances. Away from work, he took an interest in wrestling from the age of 9 after he was impressed by athletes’ feats of strength.
He showed natural talent in the sport and was selected to represent India in the Junior World Championships, but his dreams of competing were dashed when he injured his ankle.
That did not end his wrestling dreams, and he moved to Delhi to further his career. As a member of Guru Hanuman Akhara – India’s oldest and most prestigious wrestling camp – he won four Delhi State Championships.
However, there was little scope for earning much money in the sport, and he was desperate for his family to escape their dire financial straits, so Mainam turned his attention to a growing phenomenon that offered him the chance to prosper.
“Seeing my mother struggle and my father’s health pushed me,” Mainam explains.
“There were many successful mixed martial artists who came from a wrestling base, so I thought I would stand a good chance and challenged myself to start training mixed martial arts in 2014.”
Despite his success in wrestling, Mainam found life in India’s capital city hard, and the financial pressures soon became too much.
“Moving to Delhi, everything was very costly, and I didn’t know what to do,” he says.
“Plus juggling between school, training, and work was really difficult.”
Mainam soon got a job working as a trainer in Bangalore, but he had to spend most of his income on bills, leaving little to nothing to send back home to his family.
His situation was not how he imagined, but the lessons from his wrestling training gave him the strength and determination to keep going until better opportunities came along.
“There was no option but to keep grinding,” he says.
“I feel wrestling is one of the most grueling sports. It requires high-intensity training. It has taught me never to give up, despite the circumstances.”
He also had his close friend and mentor, Vishal Seigell, who he had met in Delhi, to lean on for help and advice to guide him through this difficult time of his life toward prosperity.
“He and I had a common goal, for me to secure a stable job through fighting to support my family,” Mainam recalls.
“When I met Coach Vishal again in Bangalore, everything changed for me.”
Seigell, the owner and founder of Bangalore’s KOI Combat Academy, invited Mainam to train with him so he could improve his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and striking to complement his wrestling skills, and prepare for a life as a professional sportsman.
“He took the time to train and groom me into the athlete I am today, and it went beyond just mixed martial arts,” the 23-year-old explains.
“He taught me about the business aspect of it, and other things as well, like life skills, how to structure my life and training – things that I would have never learned otherwise.”
Mainam made a promising start to his career as he finished his opponents in all of his seven amateur and three professional wins in his homeland. He then got his chance to take the next step on his journey through tryouts for the competition team at Evolve in Singapore.
With Seigell’s help, he earned the chance to show the coaches at the elite gym what he could do.
“Coach Vishal created my profile, took care of everything, and I was then selected to be one of the 29 people for the trials,” Mainam begins.
“He gave me the confidence I needed to believe I am made to be a World Champion. He motivated me to dare to dream big and work towards what I am destined to do and be.”
Rising To The Challenge
Mainam made an instant impression on the Evolve coaches with his wrestling skills, and was offered a lucrative contract to represent the gym.
“This is a dream come true. I’m blessed and humbled to be part of the Evolve Fight Team,” he says.
“I have made exponential growth ever since I got here thanks to my great coaches, training partners, and seniors.”
Now that he has secured the chance to live his dream and hone his skills with a roster of World Champions, Mainam can support his family, but that is not all.
He is also committed to giving opportunities to other promising athletes, and he continues to work with Seigell to help the next generation follow in his footsteps.
“With how far I’ve come, we have partnered to do similar things for deserving fighters who come from weak economic backgrounds,” he adds.
“We have created a program to fully sponsor athletes, and Coach is training and grooming them like how he did with me.”
Now, less than a year after he moved to his new home, the Thoubal native will reach another milestone as he makes his debut on the global stage at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE. In Manila against Sichan, he is determined to make the most of his opportunity and show his protégés what the fruits of his labor look like.
“I am very excited. I have no other choice but to succeed,” he says.
“I have worked very hard, and my former coaches and my mentor – Coach Vishal – have invested so much in me and set me straight in the direction I want to go in. Now, especially being a part of the prestigious Evolve Fight Team, there is no other option but to succeed.”