The Pro Panja League, India’s new premier Arm Wrestling tournament is climbing newer heights every day.
The sport of arm wrestling isn’t unknown to anyone, well known in India as Panja. It’s one of the few sport that almost every homo sapien on this planet is familiar with. This sport doesn’t require any infrastructure as players only need to use their arms on a specially designed table.
While almost anyone can play arm wrestling, not everyone has the physical strength, capabilities and talent to compete professionally at a higher level. The competition in professional Arm wrestling is so high that athletes spend hours in the gym perfecting their technique and strength.
Seeing the freakishness of the athletes, you would be convinced that size and strength is everything and that couldn’t be more further from the truth. As much as strength is perennial, Pro Panja League’s ranking tournament Silver medalist Harman Mann would tell you that the success largely rests on technique— the angle of the tug, the timing of a surge, the precise positioning of each finger.
With that being said, arm wrestlers are as good as the competition they take part in. Till now, there wasn’t a professional league or tournament for arm wrestling in India. Each state has its own governing body with Indian Arm Wrestling Federation (IAF) being the central governing body for amateurs.
Pro Panja League leading the way for Arm Wrestling in India
Till now, the arm wrestling scene in India was pretty decentralised with athletes from different states taking part in local tournaments organised by their local bodies or gyms with one national amateur championship taking place each year.
That all changed in 2020, when Bollywood star Parvin Dabas, who is also an avid MMA fan decided to come up with a professional Arm Wrestling league, which would be the first one in the country.
It was a big risk, no one knew how people would take to the tournament. While India is no stranger to sporting leagues, no one had ever tried a league like concept with Arm Wrestling and it wasn’t even sure what type of demographics would like this sport or if there even was a market for a professional Arm Wrestling league.
As it turns out, Pro Panja League was an instant hit with fans and athletes alike. On 29th February, Pro Panja League had its first-ever event at the Thaygaraj Stadium in New Delhi and to tell that it was a success would be an understatement. The league was a massive hit filled with important celebrities and a union minister.
The event lasted for the two days with weigh in’s on Day 1. Day 2 was divided into Prelims and finals bouts. In the prelims event, the arm wrestlers were filtered and the winners had the chance to participate in the main event.
All the athletes were for the first time provided with facilities on par with other leagues. Add to the fact that the league managed to rope in sponsors like Patanjali and Fruit Forest.
While stuff like this is common for professional athletes in organisations like IPL, NBA, ISL etc, a professional arm wrestler in India has never been provided with this before. Add to the fact that the stage was set with giant jumbotrons, flashy lights and Bollywood music entertaining the crowd.
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We're back with another thrilling finale fight! Witness some fantastic arm wrestling action from #PPL 70kgs finale fight! 💪💯 . Click on the link in bio to watch the full fight . . . . . . . . . _____________ #propanjaleague #armwrestling #champions #armwrestlingtraining #players #fighters #winners #armwrestlingchampion #agression #strength #fitnessphysique #rankingtournament #sports @tridip_medhi_official
The main event was where the real attraction was. After the prelims, the main event started at 5 pm with popular comedian Khayali Sahara and Bollywood celebrity Preeti Jhangiani as the hosts’ for the main event.
The event had Shri Kiren Rijiju, current Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as the Chief Guest and inaugurated the event. Undefeated professional boxer Vijender Singh was guest of honour to the excitement of fans and athletes alike. To the athletes taking part in the event, it didn’t feel like any other tournament they had taken part in as many of them stared starry-eyed at the huge stage erected for them. For many this was the first time, they had performed in front of such an influential crowd.
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Thank you @kiren.rijiju Sir for your support🙏🏻 the athletes have all been working hard for #ProPanjaLeague and really appreciate your strong words of encouragement and the attention you have brought to the sport of #Panja #ArmWrestling in Indja..Jai Ho 🙏🏻 #Repost @kiren.rijiju with @get_repost ・・・ Special #FitIndiaMovement moments from the first ever #ProPanjaLeague with @singhvijender @dabasparvin ,top Arm Wrestlers of India and the Indian Arm Wrestling Federation💪
As the main event progressed, the emotions were running high amongst athletes and it could be seen when their arms grappled with each other at the table.
Not only were the matches interesting they were fast and entertaining. It’s one of those sport that you don’t really have to be an expert to understand it. There aren’t that many rules and it resonates with almost anybody.
Mr Kiren Rijiju and Vijender Singh were hyped seeing the 70 kg main event bout between Assam’s Tridip Medhi and Punjab’s Sukhmeet Singh. The main event bouts were contested as the best of 3s.
After two rounds, both arm Wrestlers were 1-1 heading into the first, but in the third round, it was Tridip Medhi who prevailed and managed to secure the victory. Having seen a professional arm wrestling tournament for the first time in my life, I can assure you that I haven’t seen anything remotely exciting in my entire life. The match lasts 5 minutes at most with all the theatrics going around it. Those five-minutes are adrenaline rush, both for the spectators and the athletes competing themselves.
Following the entertaining bout, Shri Kiren Rijiju took center stage and commended the Pro Panja League and owner’s Parvin Dabas and Preeti Jhangiani for doing a superb job in making the launch entertaining and congratulated the athletes on making the bouts extremely competitive. He promised to support Arm Wrestling in India because of the Pro Panja League even though arm wrestling is not a government recognised sport.
Boxing superstar Vijender Singh rightfully describes how I felt when I saw the main card bout between the 60 kg studs.
— ProPanjaLeague (@ProPanjaLeague) March 5, 2020
Singh revealed that he had goosebumps while watching the entertaining scrap between the Arm Wrestlers.
The winners of the event were also given the biggest ever cash prizes in any Indian arm wrestling tournament so far which is surprising since this was just the beginning ranking tournament. Quite a few arm wrestlers informed us that previously they were used to big prizes being announced by organisers but not actually receiving them so they were surprised when the winning cheques were given to them on the same night itself.
The organisers of Pro Panja League couldn’t have asked for a better response from the audience, athletes, sponsors and the chief guests. Speaking to Sports India Show, Mr Parvin Dabas revealed how his interest in combat sports guided him into creating Pro Panha League. He further added that his ambitions are not limited to India, in fact, he wishes to make his promotion a global leader in Arm Wrestling competitions.
“I have been a fan of combat sports for the longest time. Having trained in tae kwon do and kickboxing at a younger age and also being surrounded by Panja playing hot-blooded males in Delhi. We have worked very hard to make the Pro Panja League an Arm Wrestling tournament not just on par with international standards, but quite frankly being a Global industry leader in the same,” Dabas said.
“I had seen some amateur events and was pleasantly surprised by the passion and talent of Indian Arm Wrestlers and have to say that the Pro Panja League has been built as a platform for their talent. We want to see Indian talent at the forefront of global Arm Wrestling within a few years and am confident that will happen,” he added.
“I will support our homegrown talent, especially those who have reposed their faith in the Pro Panja League in its initial stages. I always go out of my way to support people who join with me in the early stages.” Parvin Dabas concluded.
Arm Wrestlers had never seen anything like this before
If anyone was surprised by the magnitude of this event, it were the athletes. The way the stage was set, the amenities provided by the league were top notch. The individual promotion the league has provided to the athletes has been terrific.
90 kg Gold medalist from Assam, Siddharth Malakar stated that he was very excited when the concept of PPL was revealed. For the most part of his career, he was under the impression that the sport of Arm Wrestling had no scope in the country.
“I was very excited when I found out last year during the Nationals that Pro Panja League is happening because I’ve always only heard that this sport has no scope, no future. I still continued playing the sport as a hobby with complete dedication. But then when PPL came, I finally believed that this could be it. This could potentially give the sport and athletes fame and to display our skills. So I had already made up my mind to participate and win at PPL,” Malakar said about his journey to becoming a PPL champion.
Apart from that, the way the stage was set for the league, it looked worthy enough to host a Commonwealth Game.
“When I saw the stage, I was shocked, it looked as if I was competing in the Commonwealth or Asian games,
“When we [Assam contingent] left the hotel to participate in the league, we thought about having breakfast first and then take some rest. However, when we reached the venue, we kept looking at the stage awestruck and by the time we thought about having breakfast, it was already late. The entire surrounding was mesmerising and it felt as if Asian or world championship games are taking place. It felt like there was Commonwealth Games going on and we are here to participate in it,” Malakar said.
Parmeet Singh, the 60 kg gold medalist highlighted the fact that his success inspired his friends to take up the sport professionally as well.
“I am very happy with the arrangements made by PPL. I never even thought that a sport like Panja could get such a platform in Inda. In fact, even my friends are very excited by this and at least 10 of them are inspired by my success and want to compete in the next edition of PPL,” Singh said.
Women’s under-65kg champion Chetna Sharma also highlighted the fact that despite competing in numerous tournaments, Pro Panja League was the first tournament, where she felt like a professional athlete and was also treated accordingly.
Also hailing from Assam, Tridip Medhi was unsure if he should be flying to Delhi to participate in an Arm Wrestling competition, but as the league started churning out promos for the event, Medhi changed his mind and despite being sick, he took part in the event and won a gold medal in the 70 kg category.
Pro Panja League’s 100 kg champion Sunil Kumar has high hopes from PPL. He has the utmost confidence in the league and stated that it will grow in India like IPL.
“While it may take time to grow as fast as the IPL, I feel PPL will go very far. It’s a common game and almost anyone can try their hands in this sport,” Sunil Kumar said.
This wasn’t the end of it, even after the tournaments were over, the social media sites of Pro Panja League were constantly running promotions and virtual competitions for the athletes.
Apart from that, Kerala’s 100 kg champion PPL champion Dilshad Perumbavoor was chosen as the Superstar of the tournament and above 65 kg gold medalist K.Lalhriatpuii was chosen as the Superstar runner-up of the tournament.
Pro Panja League is already the biggest Arm Wrestling tournament in India
Pro Panja League’s social media page have seen rapid growth. Majority of Indians use Facebook as their primary social media account and the league is killing it with its exponential growth rate.
In the past one-month, the league’s page has grown by a whopping 5000% and has over half a million post reach during a similar time interval. So far the page has accumulated 75,000 followers and seems on course to cross a couple of lakh followers soon.
While the league has seen tremendous growth, people were excited about the league well before it was even launched. In fact, a Malaysian contingent flew into Delhi to participate in the event, but as the inaugural event of the league was solely focused on the Indian arm wrestlers, the Malaysian contingent had to be satisfied to be a part of the event as guests. We’re sure they’ll be a spot for them soon.