13-19 February 2015 #745

Gianni “Gurkha” Subba

Half-Nepali mixed martial arts fighter explains the Gurkha influence in his fighting style
Cynthia Choo

He might be on a different playing field, but whenever Gianni Subba stands in the octagonal Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) ring, the Gurkha motto “it is better to die, than to be a coward” resounds loudly in his head.

“My grandpa used to serve as a Gurkha in the British Army, so whenever I practice, my Gurkha instincts take over,” said Gianni.

In fact, this quintessential Gurkha bravery was what helped him get back in the ring after a disappointing loss in May last year to Eugene Toquero after a unanimous decision by the judges.

“It was disappointing as it was a fight I knew I was capable of winning,” said the 22-year-old. “However, after that, I realized that MMA is as much a mental sport as it is physical.”

His never-say-die attitude saw him back into the ring a little over a month after the loss, overcoming his opponent Ruel Catalan with a convincing choke.

Gianni Subba's Duel with Ruel Catalan

“I fixed the technical mistakes, jumped on another fight on short notice, and was able to win that helped me get over the loss,” he said.

Despite the convincing win, the eager fighter says being relatively healthy is a challenge.

“Injuries are difficult to avoid as MMA is a contact sport that requires great intensity and athleticism, sometimes I get hurt in trainings and recovering from these injuries – minor or major – takes time,” Gianni said.

The 22-year-old has been attending school, training and competing all around the world since he was a child. “I consider it an achievement to be able to train as much as I do,” he added.

Gianni did his early primary and secondary schooling in Malaysia, finished high school and attended university in the United States.

During his off season, the half-Malaysian trains in his hometown gym Klinch MMA in Kuala Lumpur and is currently training in Bali for the upcoming ONE Championship in Malaysia on 13 March.

His training regime is a combination of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai in the mornings, with striking, wrestling and sparring every other day.

“On average, I train up to three to five hours a day, six days a week,” he says.

“I always try to train and learn from the best. In order to do that sometimes I travel out of Malaysia to train with better training partners,” he said.

Gianni trains with the Leone Brothers – international MMA superstars who are contenders for the Bellator and ONE FC World Title.

Financing the cost of overseas training is a challenge for this young and relatively inexperienced fighter.

“The cost of living in another country is not cheap but I think it is necessary in order to become a better fighter,” Gianni said.

His growth as a fighter is evident with a 4-1-0 Win Loss-Draw record and a knockout of veteran MMA fighter Bruce Loh during his debut match.

Gianni Subba's duel with Bruce Loh

Despite his good streak, Gianni has remained humble, both in and outside of the ring.

“MMA is sport that practices honour, chivalry, respect, discipline, hard work and skills,” he said.

And though the half-Nepali has been making significant strides in competitions around Asia, he brings his traditional Nepali values with him everywhere.

He said: “Respect, humility and appreciation are important . I always honour my family and friends and even my opponents.”

Read also:


The Gurkhas: An Interactive Timeline, Ayesha Shakya

Where to be a Gurkha?, Kunda Dixit