For many aspiring Mixed Martial Arts fighters, there is a very specific question they ask themselves at least once in their pursuit of their dream. An undefeated career like Khabib Nurmagomedov or the fame and wealth of Conor McGregor?

When Anshul Jubli, India’s lone representative in the premier Mixed Martial Arts promotion UFC, was posed that question ahead of his debut fight this weekend, he had an uncomplicated answer.

“Why not both?” replied Jubli in a virtual group media interaction.

Jubli had defeated Indonesia’s Jeka Seragih in the lightweight bout at the Road to UFC final at Las Vegas in February to secure a contract with the UFC. After seven months in the waiting, he will finally return to the octagon (UFC’s famed ring) when he competes against American Mike Breeden at UFC 294, in the undercard at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on October 21.

As Jubli becomes only the second Indian after Bharat Khandare to secure a contract with the UFC – unarguably the biggest stage in the sport – he is living the dream. There is the hunger to achieve it all and become the most successful Indian fighter but, he is content with taking it one step at a time.

“I’m very happy where I am right now,” he said. “Everything from here on will be extra. I am very happy that I am the person that I am right now. I’m taking care of my family. I’m supporting whoever I can support.

“So, if God gives me money, fame and stardom and I stay undefeated, that would be great. If not, that would be great too. I am happy with myself and that’s it,” he added.

No nerves, no pressure

Jubli made his MMA debut in 2015 and is heading into this fight with an unbeaten record of 7-0-0. Breedan, meanwhile, heads into the fight with a three-match losing streak and a 10-6-0 record.

“The nerves haven’t kicked in yet but who knows, maybe before the fight,” Jubli said. “I think that little nervousness comes to everyone before a fight. It’s a man-to-man combat after all,” said the 28-year-old Indian.

“Right now, there is no pressure. I am training well. I have come from a lot of adversity and I have dealt with everything well so I am going in very confident and will be aiming for the finish,” added the 28-year-old Indian.

Jubli has never had a solitary role model when it comes to the octagon. He has found inspiration and modelled his fighting style around several competitors such as Nurmagomedov, McGregor, Islam Makachev, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.

“If they are at the top, then they are my favourite fighters,” said Jubli with a laugh. “And if someone loses, then I keep changing. I keep stealing and borrowing styles from those who are at the top of their game and get inspired by them.”

Mental over physical

It’s an eventful week for the sport in India. MMA received a shot in the arm when Jubli bagged the contract and he is now, in essence, making it count.

On Tuesday, Muzaffarnagar’s Puja Tomar became the first Indian woman to bag a UFC contract. It sends out the message that Indian athletes in this sport can now dream.

Also read: MMA: Meet Puja Tomar – The strawweight champion hardened by life’s battles

The occasion is big and daunting but Jubli’s hustle keeps him grounded even as he is about to fulfil his dream. He is confident about his training and preparation but thinks the challenge is to persevere mentally more than physically. After all, he is venturing into a territory that very few like him have managed to come out of successfully.

“When you step out of your comfort zone or you try to achieve something deemed impossible, you ought to acknowledge that people are saying it’s difficult for a reason,” he said. “It is indeed difficult, it really is something that hasn’t been achieved before. There are people who have given up on the dream before.”

“But is when you face those problems, that adversity, and don’t quit, that makes you so mentally strong,” he added. “You are not going to be mentally strong by sitting in the comfort of your home.”

Originally a native of Bhatwari in Uttarakhand, Jubli moved to Delhi to pursue his MMA career where he trained at Crosstrain academy. He owes it all to his coach and confidante Siddharth Singh, whom he now calls his Godfather. The hard grind over the years and his training under Singh has ensured that Jubli always prioritises the mental aspect of the sport more than the physical bit.

“You become truly strong only when you go train and push yourself even when it’s not your day,” Jubli explained. “It’s not tough to train everyday, it is tough to maintain the discipline to do the same things day after day, no matter what – be it going to training at the same time, training twice a day consistently waking up at the same time, not cheating on your diet or taking care of your nutrition.

“I really believe being mentally strong is more important than being physically strong.”

That mental strength will be put to test on Saturday when he takes on Breeden but Jubli is backing himself. There is no pressure but Jubli knows what’s at stake – a chance at taking Indian MMA to greater heights.

“I have this responsibility on me that I have to represent my country, Indian MMA and the people who are supporting me,” said Jubli. “I have to represent them and I have to represent them well.

“I’ve always been a fighter and I want to win this fight. I’ve done everything that is necessary to go there and win it. I’ll win this fight.”

Watch the LIVE coverage of Anshul Jubli’s debut bout against Mike Breeden at UFC 294: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski on 21st October 2023 on Sports Ten 1, Sony Sports Ten 3 (Hindi) & Sony Sports Ten 4 (Tamil & Telugu) channels with the pre-show starting at 7:30 PM IST.