MMA News: "I would like to win the ONE Championship World Title belt" - says Ritu Phogat ahead of One FC debut
A nation of a billion people will be glued to their television sets this Saturday as one of their favorite daughters and one of the hottest prospects in global combat sports, 'The Indian Tigress' Ritu Phogat makes her debut in professional MMA. (h/t One FC)
On 16th November, at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in Beijing, China, Phogat will enter the cage for the very first time in a women's atomweight clash against South Korea’s “Captain Marvel” Nam Hee Kim.
Back in India, Phogat is a household name because of her exploits in the world of wrestling and she will have a whole nation cheering her as she embarks on her quest to become India's first World Champion in MMA.
Heading into the fight, Phogat takes us through her journey of starting from a small village named Balali in Haryana to becoming a champion wrestler and the pride of her nation.
Phogat's road to wrestling glory
'The Indian Tigress' started grappling at the age of 8 at a time where women wrestlers were looked down upon by society. However, Phogat was clear about the fact that she wanted to pursue wrestling.
“For me, it was clear from the beginning that I have to pursue wrestling. To be honest, everything that people and society said or talked about was before my time. My father and sisters had to bear the brunt of that. Fortunately, I was shielded from having to go through the same.”
Her sisters Geeta and Babita had already become national heroes having won gold and silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. A few years later, Phogat got the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her sisters by competing in international competition, and she was admittedly under a lot of pressure to live up to the standards her sisters had set.
“They had given me a platform to go and perform. The fact that I was their younger sister meant that people expected a lot from me, but I always tried to forget this kind of pressure during a match and give 100 percent.”
Under tremendous pressure, Phogat excelled, winning two national championships, and then she finally won her first gold medal in the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship held in Singapore.
Initiation to MMA
Phogat developed a liking for mixed martial arts during her wrestling days, and believed that her grappling skills would give her the edge in an MMA fight.
“I always wanted to do something different. I often wondered why there are no Indian world champions in this sport and that actually motivated me to pursue this.”
Well, an opportunity soon came knocking for Phogat when Singaporean MMA gym, Evolve offered her to train with them. In the beginning, Phogat wasn't sure about what her family might say about the offer, but thankfully for her, they fully backed her decision.
“I wouldn’t have been here if not for my family’s continuous support. I actually talked to my sisters before telling my father. They wanted to me to pursue something which I was interested in. ‘If you want to pursue mixed martial arts, you must do it with full determination and focus,’".
“My sisters talked to my father – I didn’t talk to him directly – and he too supported me fully and asked me to make India proud. ‘Whatever the sport, one must pursue it with dedication.’ That was their message.”
Beginning of a new journey
Phogat reached Singapore in February and since then, has been focusing on sharpening her wrestling skills along with learning new forms of martial arts such as kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After months of hard work and preparation, Phogat believes that she is finally ready to step inside the cage and announce her arrival to the MMA community. Phogat dreams of becoming the first Indian woman to become a World Champion in MMA.
“I would like to win the ONE Championship World Title belt. That is my only aim. I would like to be the first Indian woman to become a World Champion in Mixed Martial Arts.”