Suniel Shetty: The Tough Guy In Business Coming from a business family, 61-year-old Shetty started to work from the age of 16 at his father's restaurant.
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In a world bursting with all kinds of reality shows, many of which could easily be classified under the 'trash' category, a hard hitting new concept has taken shape in the form of India's first Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Reality Series, Kumite 1 Warrior Hunt, streaming on MX Player. Hosted by action man Suniel Shetty, the MX Studios Original which went live on February 12, is about 16 top male and female MMA athletes competing for a title while being trained by renowned MMA coaches - Bharat Khandare and Pawan Maan.
SEE VIDEO: Suniel Shetty: Meet the softer side of the action man
"I was lucky because they approached me for the show and the minute I got to know the narration I was excited because I am a martial artist myself, and that's my background. It was a perfect brand fit for me. I look at it as a platform to give these young competitors from India to fight on the world stage because I believe among all the 36 martial arts that form MMA, its kushti and kalaripayattu which are the most powerful and traditional ones," Shetty told us when asked how did he get associated with the show.
One of the main objectives of the show is to make wrestling a household name in India, which was evident by the presence of India's top wrestling personalities at the launch - Mahavir Singh Phogat, Ritu Phogat (on whom Aamir Khan's Dangal was based) and the first Indian-born WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Khali. Shetty believes that the sport has the potential to become the biggest in India, overtaking football and cricket. Obviously, it isn't going to be an easy journey in a cricket crazy nation, as many of those present at the launch, including Khali commented.
What sets the show apart from any other MMA series is that it highlights the emotions and struggles of the contestants. According to Nikhil Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer, MX Player, the six-episode series will give viewers a first-hand insight into the hardships faced by these athletes in their MMA journey with stories of survival, passion and courage, thus making the series extremely relatable. The champions of Kumite 1 Warrior Hunt will receive a cash prize of USD 5000 along with an exclusive 3 years contract and runner-ups will get a one year contract. The winners will also get an opportunity to be trained internationally to gain exposure with the best athletes abroad and represent 'Team India' in 'K 1 Asian Championship' in mid-2023 in UAE. "The kids are not on the world stage because they haven't got the opportunity, not because of any lack of talent. I feel in the next few years you will see fighters from India dominating the world sport of MMA," Shetty believes.
And he has right to hold on to this belief, considering that it is because martial arts that he established himself in the film industry. Making his debut in Balwaan (1992) opposite Divya Bharti, Shetty says it was his martial arts background that led to his eventual success, as his debut led to a reviewer calling him a 'wooden actor'. What followed were blockbusters such as Mohra and Gopi Kishan, both 1994 releases, which cemented his image as the tough guy. But along with his movie successes, Shetty established himself as an ace investor, entrepreneur and producer over the years, getting into hospitality with Mischief Dining Bar and Club H2O apart from investing in the retail sector and start-ups such as health-tech Vieroots, wellness nutrition brand BodyFirst and fitness brand Aquatein. He also has a production banner called Popcorn Entertainment and is the founder of FTC Talent Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, an all-inclusive digital portal that offers jobs in films, television, advertisements, theatre and live events.
Coming from a business family, 61-year-old Shetty started to work from the age of 16 at his father's restaurant. Hailing from the Bunt community, they ran a few udupi restaurants. Shetty was involved in all aspects of the business, right from the daily 5 am trips to the wholesale markets, to the kitchen preps before they started at 7 am, watching each table to guarantee that customers were satisfied, maintaining supplies and stock, helping out in the kitchen during rush hours and cleaning and waiting tables.
Recently, he also made his LinkedIn debut, where he regularly shares knowledge learned over the last few decades in his various businesses and the film industry.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Instagram.com/kabirsinghbhandari