ONE Championship debutant Roshan Mainam won’t be lacking in motivation when he takes to martial arts’ biggest stage for his first taste of combat at the elite level.

Like so many of his colleagues, Mainam’s journey into the world of professional combat began as simply a means to an end – a way to help lift his family back onto their feet and provide at a time of need.

The proud Indian recounts the times he’d go to bed starving, as his family struggled to find the means to provide ongoing medical support for his gravely-ill father.

Mainam was thrust into the role of chief provider from a very young age, a role that he occupies – and places a great deal of importance on – to this very day,

“Because of my father’s chronic medical condition, my mother had to work long hours in the mill as he was in no condition to work or provide,” Mainam said.

“I also had to start working at a very young age. It was really difficult trying to make ends meet while having to ensure my father has access to decent medical care and my family had food to eat at the same time.”

Now just moments removed from his clash with Cambodia’s Khon Sichan at ONE: ‘Masters of Fate’ in Manila on Friday, the 23-year-old has his sights set on more than just belts and adulation.

Financial security

His focus lies with a path to financial security and peace of mind, and it all begins in the Philippines capital,

“I’m hoping to be able to provide the best medical care for my father and provide financial security for my family.”

Mainam’s journey to the ONE Championship cage started last year. He traveled to Singapore to participate in the Evolve MMA tryouts, earning a spot on the fight team in the process.

It was a risk that well and truly paid off. Mainam was welcomed to the team and has been training and thriving there ever since.

Already boasting an exceptional wrestling foundation as a four-time Delhi State champion, Mainam has steadily added to his all-round game since joining Evolve MMA and is rapidly developing his jiu-jitsu and striking skills,

“I knew that Evolve MMA had the resources to help me develop my skills and techniques as a professional athlete,” Mainam said. “Training under the instructors here has helped tremendously and I believe I have made significant improvements since joining.”

Training hard

He’ll have the opportunity to put his newfound abilities to the test against a game opponent in Sichan. Training out of Phnom Penh MMA, the 32-year-old has faced his fair share of adversity in recent bouts, with just one win from his three ONE Championship outings.

Not that Mainam is paying any attention to his opponent’s record. Despite his relative lack of experience, he knows better than to read too far into numbers.

“Anyone I go up against will put up a hard fight. Anything can happen. I’m just focused on training hard and sharpening my skills and techniques to be well-prepared enough to counter anything the fight presents.”

Mainam is part of an influx of fighters from the Indian region who’ve joined ONE Championship in recent times – a reflection of the increasing popularity of martial arts in that part of the world.

It’s a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly and you be certain he’ll be beaming with pride as he flies his nation’s flag on his way to the cage at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“It means the world to me. I am part of the best team at Evolve MMA and I’m confident I will be able to represent my country at the highest level possible.”

Nurturing the development and growth of the sport in his homeland is also right at the top of his list of goals. Mainam wants to give a leg up to those who may be facing the same struggles he has.

“I’m aiming to open a gym in India to help groom and train other athletes that come from a similar background as me.”

Self belief

While it’s only natural to experience pre-fight jitters – particularly on your debut – Mainam insists that life’s lessons have left him well-equipped to manage them, and perhaps even use it to his advantage.

“I would say I work well under pressure. I used to be very weak physically as a child and had to learn how to cope with pressure and overcome adversity at a very early age, I’m used to this. My upbringing has made me very strong, mentally and emotionally.”

And don’t underestimate the confidence of youth. Mainam has self-belief in spades, which shines through when you ask how he foresees the contest playing out on Friday.

“I want to assert my dominance early in the fight and end it as quickly as possible. I am ready for wherever the fight will take me and believe the training I have been undergoing will allow me to finish it within the first 6 minutes.”