Wrestling has been an integral part of India’s sporting tradition with young enthusiasts honing their skills in ‘akharas’. Indian wrestlers have updated their skills with the evolution of wrestling as a modern sport and Jammu and Kashmir is no exception. Arif Saleem Bohru has emerged as the first professional wrestler from Jammu and Kashmir and is known by his ring name ‘Badshah Khan’. Arif was born and raised in the remote village of Neel in the Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir. Arif got motivated towards wrestling as his father used to tell him about the renowned wrestler ‘The Great Khali’.

Khali’s achievements ignited a spark in Asif and he decided to pursue wrestling as his profession. Determined to pursue his dreams, Arif enrolled in The Great Khali’s Wrestling Academy in Jalandhar. This was the first step towards his goal. Asif continued to show dedication and his hard work caught the attention of his trainers. It did not take very long to earn appreciation from Khali who bestowed him ‘Badshah Khan’ moniker.

At the age of 20, Arif stepped into the ring and his hard work started to pay off. His passion for the sport and a success rate of 85 percent in over 300 matches have made him an inspiration for aspiring athletes across the region. He is counted among India’s top five professional wrestlers.

Arif’s path to his destination was not easy. He began participating in small wrestling competitions and gradually built his confidence. He honed his skills by training alongside professional wrestlers. Social media also played a vital role in Arif’s success. His wrestling videos went viral, amassing a substantial following.

Asked about his mission as a wrestler, Arif said he is fearless in the ring. “When I am inside the ring, I feel like the king. I am not afraid of anyone within that ring because I showcase the true power of Kashmir and India.. I aim to represent India and Kashmir worldwide.”

Competing at the top level and keeping consistency requires effort. Arif’s training schedule includes six hours of workouts and four hours of wrestling.

“I have dreamt of being a wrestler since I was a teenager. I have worked tirelessly to reach where I am today. Now that I have achieved this position, I don’t want to let it go to waste. To maintain my wrestling prowess and continue winning, I learn and train each day,” he said. Arif’s ultimate goal is to compete in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and win the title of world champion. He hopes for some financial support from Jammu and Kashmir government in his sporting endeavours. He emphasises the role of sports in leading healthy lifestyle and has been urging youth to stay away from drugs.

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