Exclusive Interview: MMA fighter Jojo Rajkumari sells vegetables to survive amid lockdown
Manipur's Jojo is confident that she will survive the ordeal and will soon be back in the octagon and fetch laurels for Manipur.
Mixed Martial Art (MMA) fighter Jojo Rajkumari, one of the few MMA qualified woman combatants in Manipur, has been selling vegetables since the enforcement of the current COVID-19 induced lockdown in the state. However, she is confident that she will survive the ordeal and will soon be back in the octagon and fetch laurels for her home state. Jojo believes the people of state and the government will one day recognise her fighting skills.
Twenty-four-year-old Jojo Rajkumari, youngest daughter of Biren RK and Bibisini RK of Moirang Laiharoafam Thiyongbam Leikai, Part 2 started her career in the form of kickboxing in 2007 without any support from her family. She now has an MMA record of 2-1 and turned pro in 2018 after an extensive kickboxing career.
Speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press, Jojo said, “I don’t come from a financially sound family. I get support from my elder sister and her husband for training. Initially, my parents especially, my mother did not support me. Most of my family members and relatives told me that a girl should not learn martial arts. What will happen if something happens on my face or body”.
Despite the disapproval from her family and close relatives, Jojo lied about her ambition and started taking part in amateur and professional kick-boxing. After winning numerous competitions and winning medals, her parents eventually allowed her to follow her dreams.
“Currently, I stay at Konung Mamang Ningthem Pukhri Mapal on rented accommodation for my training regimen. I have to pay my rent as well as buy dieting items on my own. I engage myself in seasonal small businesses and sometimes go for fishing in Loktak Lake so that I can afford my training,” Jojo said.
“During winter, I sell woolen clothes and during summer, I would sell summer clothes. Under the current COVID-19 related lockdown, I sell vegetables in my locality. This is how I earn to survive,” she points out.
Jojo’s journey with Martial Arts began with kick-boxing in 2007. She has competed at four national level tournaments held in New Delhi. She has also competed in numerous state-level tournaments. She has so far fetched 11 gold and four silver medals.
When she began her career in MMA, she faced lots of financial problems. However, her coach N Frank has been kind enough to help and support her. She was always interested in MMA but during her early days, there were hardly any opportunities to participate or train for MMA in Manipur. In 2018, N Frank, who is the head coach at Kangleipak Mixed Martial Art Club (KMMAC) invited her to compete in an MMA tournament.
She finally made the transition from kickboxing to MMA and it was not easy. Hard work and training under the guidance of N Frank made her “a solid fighter”. She said. “I have never seen a trainer who has shown such dedication and love towards the students like Frank. He has guided my career brilliantly so far and I feel I have developed into a better fighter under his wings”, she said.
“It does not mean that I am always the best in every fight. The defeat I faced in the Chainaba season was the toughest fight,” she said. “That defeat was a hard pill for me and from that my coach worked on my stamina and conditioning and on Chainaba second season, I fought and won convincingly,” she added.
Jojo also rued the fact that MMA does not get support from any authorities. “KMMAC organised three Chainaba seasons. Lots of money is required for organising and arranging fighters. Sometimes fighters are called from outside the states and foreign countries,” she pointed out.
“N Frank, KMMAC head coach had mortgaged his yard field, two wheelers to organise Chainaba. To arrange the event, the club even organised housie and road donations,” she said.
Once KMMAC led by her coach N Frank went to meet Chief Minister N Biren to seek financial support. “However, the chief minister told us to meet him after the registration of the club,” she said.
Jojo, however, is confident that everything will work out and stressed on the need to remain confident.