India’s Puja Tomar inspired by ONE Championship rivals Angela Lee and Ritu Phoghat
- Puja Tomar share her thoughts on ONE Championship and India MMA.
- Puja Tomar says she wants to become the ONE Championship Atomweight Champion’.
If you ask Puja Tomar what her goal is in ONE Championship, the 26-year-old is unequivocal,
"To become the ONE Championship Atomweight Champion."
A mercurial striker who became a national champion in Wushu for four years running, Tomar has endured a savage gauntlet since transitioning to MMA and has shared the Cirlce with some elite competition since signing for ONE.
Competing in the exciting Atomweight division, her record stands at 4-4 with the majority of her losses coming against some of the best female fighters in Asia.
"I always get tough matches in ONE. I’ve never turned down any fight, and that shows that I am a true fighter and hungry to achieve my goals. Fighting against top-level opponents has given me a lifetime of experience and it makes me stronger as a fighter. After some wins I will try to get a rematch with them."
‘True fighter’ is certainly a fair way to describe Tomar. Her last victory came in a fascinating battle with Indonesia’s Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol back in January. Competing in her opponent’s home city of Jakarta, Tomar survived a sustained rear-naked choke attempt and a barrage of punches in the latter stages, but held on to take the split decision.
Her incredible heart and resilience captured the imagination of the fans, and she’s one of several emerging female fighters in India who are driving the MMA scene.
‘Ritu Phogat is a true legend of Martial Arts. She has a strong background in Wrestling. Her sisters also wrestle, their father supported them a lot and our top superstar made a movie about them (Dangal).
"She is not just a good example for us but for the whole world; showing how you can come from a small town to get recognized on the biggest platform in the world. So far, she’s won all of her fights in the ONE Circle. I hope that she will do the same in the future too. "
21-year-old Asha Roka is also a young rising MMA Fighter. My best wishes and prayers to her as well. She needs to work on her ground game and soon she will also get some good wins in ONE.’
It’s not just the female athletes who have been flying the flag for Indian MMA but also the men, with Tomar paying homage to a few others who have the potential to achieve great things in the coming months.
"Definitely Arjan Bhullar is a legend and a UFC Veteran. People have been inspired a lot by his MMA career. I personally think that he will be become ONE Heavyweight champion soon. "
"There are many great martial artists but I like Rajinder Singh Meena a lot. He didn't show his full capability recently, but I am sure that he will make a strong comeback in the ONE Circle and show his real capabilities. Elsewhere, Rahul Raju is getting some good training in Singapore. He will also achieve something good for the nation."
With ONE still looking at doing their first show in India, it certainly helps that there is such an exciting list of established stars and stars-in-the-making to call upon.
In a country where cricket is king and even football has to fight for its place in the hearts and minds of the people, MMA needs Tomar and her colleagues to shine bright if it’s going to continue climbing in this part of the world.
"MMA is growing in India - slowly. Now people know about this sport here. That’s thanks to ONE Championship which is helping us by giving us a chance at this level as well as doing a lot to promote our local ONE athlete’s activity more on their social media. In this way people are understanding what MMA is all about and I’m pretty sure that with the way ONE are promoting the sport it will increase in the next five years."
Tomar also stressed that it’s not just up to the athletes to ensure that Indian MMA keeps growing.
"Government support and local media need to come forward and take care of Martial Artists otherwise it will take long years. It's a bitter truth. But it is what it is."
Having last fought in January, ‘The Cyclone’ is bullish regarding the identity of her next opponent.
"It depends on the matchmakers and who they decide to give me. Whoever it is I will accept for sure as I have always done. Hopefully I will get an equal-level matchup this time and I am very confident that I will smash her because I am hungry to get the wins."
She’ll certainly need those wins if she’s to have any hope of achieving her world title dream. Currently holding the belt is Angela Lee, whom Tomar believes is the most exciting athlete in all of ONE Championship.
"She is a true example of female empowerment and a true Martial Artist. Her family is a great example for all the parents here in Asia and around the world that with family support their kids can achieve anything in their lives."
Tomar has huge respect for the current champion, but if she can start to add some more victories to her burgeoning record, perhaps she can adopt a piece of age-old advice often given to those on the path to greatness; - Work until your idols become your rivals.