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‘Never Imagined A Moment Like This’ – How Zeba Bano Earned The Respect Of Her Community

Jul 8, 2022

Zeba Bano is fired up for her return to action, and she’s excited to fly her national colors on the global stage once again.

On July 22, the Indian rising star will face highly touted American newcomer Lea Bevins in an atomweight mixed martial arts clash at ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash.

Despite falling short in her own debut at ONE 157 in May, Bano says the opportunity to compete inside the ONE Championship Circle was a life-changing experience. 

She’s overcome various obstacles to become one of India’s top female MMA athletes, and she’s thrilled to inspire those watching back home.

“Fighting Queen” shared:

“My family and neighbors are feeling proud of me. The relatives who didn’t use to like [mixed martial arts] are happy now that someone from our family is representing India. They praise me a lot these days.  

“They are thinking about putting their kids in sports. Lots of people have told me that they want to learn martial arts.”

This moment in time is particularly satisfying for Bano.

For years, many people around her doubted that she could succeed in professional combat sports, while her clothing was an issue within the local community.

However, those negative perceptions largely turned positive after the 24-year-old debuted in the world’s largest martial arts organization against Thai star Nat “Wondergirl” Jaroonsak.

Bano said:

“Things have changed a lot. Earlier, they had problem with my shorts and sandow, but now they think that sports should be looked at from [a sporting] perspective only, and not by the attire.”

Zeba Bano walks out at ONE 157

Zeba Bano Received Hero’s Welcome After ONE Debut

The sport of MMA is still growing in India, but the country loves its homegrown female stars who make it to the global stage. Those athletes include Ritu Phogat, Asha Roka, and now, Zeba Bano.

And while Bano did not have the ONE Championship debut she envisioned, she was still treated to an incredible – and surprising – homecoming after the fight.

She recalled:

“I couldn’t believe it when my father told me that lots of people have gathered to welcome you. There were a lot of important people too, like members of a state legislative assembly and the Deputy Superintendent of Police.

“I had never imagined that there would be a moment like this in my life. I had only seen it for others. I always used to wonder if I will ever have a moment like this.”

Perhaps even more shocking was that the celebrations lasted for almost a week.

“Fighting Queen” added:

“They took me on an open-top vehicle around my village, Amethi. It went on for four to five days, and there were lots of crowds. People were happy that someone, especially a Muslim girl from our district made it to a huge platform like ONE. It is a big deal for everyone and motivates them.”

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