You Can Watch This South Asian Wrestling Competition For Free In Dubai

It’s an all-men audience though


Ever driven past the Deira fish market towards the Hyatt Regency Dubai on a Friday evening and wondered what the crowd (and commotion) was all about? We’ll tell you.

Just before sunset, the empty patch of land is used as a wrestling rink for traditional Kushti fighters (the sub-continent’s equal of MMA fighters), many of whom have come to Dubai to work as labourers.

You’d be surprised to know these weekly competitions, which can be watched FOC, gather an audience of around a few hundred men, with some travelling a long way to witness the action.

The sandy arena sets the stage for the fight which begins with an old man summoning participants to come forward. Crowds cheer as contestants are matched to their partners. They then change into bright coloured underwear before the referee signals for the match to begin. Claps and the bagpiper's tunes set the background score. Locks, throws, submission holds follow for the next few minutes until one partner is pinned down and the winner is announced.

Here are the five things you need to know about Kushti fighting:

1. Indians call it Kushti, while Pakistanis call it Pehlwani. Both refer to the same sport which is a combination of combat-wrestling and an Iranian athletics system (we’re talking about stuff that was used to train warriors).

2. It is not all fun and games. The strict training programmes calls for a life free of drinking, smoking and sex, along with a highly controlled diet.

3. Most Kushti fighters come from a lineage of fighters and generally begin their training in their teens, though cases of training from the age of six aren’t uncommon.

4. This form of wrestling does not permit strikes or kicks.

5. Back in India and Pakistan, the fighters compete on dirt floors raked off stones. Buttermilk, oil and red ochre (an earth pigment) are sprinkled on the ground to give it its hue. Before every match, wrestlers throw a handful of mud on themselves and their opponents as a form of blessing.