Having started her Mixed Martial Art career with a TKO triumph against South Korean Nam Hee Kim, Phogat sibling Ritu is eyeing the ONE FC World Title belt this year.
On her professional debut at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in Beijing, China, in November last year, Ritu has utilized her grappling prowess to take South Korea’s “Captain Marvel” Nam Hee Kim to the canvas, and then she rained down ground and pound until the referee stopped the contest late in the opening stanza.
Nicknamed “The Indian Tigress” for her MMA journey, is now taking aim at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her momentous year, her goals for 2020, and much more.
The Bhiwani girl, who had switched from her family’s traditional sport to the lucrative and more flamboyant mixed martial arts, had to shift her training base from Haryana to Singapore to pursue the bigger goals. After having overcome the challenges of the formative phase, the Haryana wrestler-turned-MMA fighter has now raised the bar really high.
In an exclusive interview with ONE Championship, Ritu has shared about her short but impactful MMA journey and goals. “It was not easy for me. When you leave a sport and join a new one, you are bound to face challenges. Living in a new country and getting accustomed to the sport’s conditions is not easy, but I have adapted to my surroundings and the sport now,” says Ritu.
Adapting to a new combat sport had been the biggest challenge for the 25-year-old who had grown up in an atmosphere dominated by wrestling ever since she was in a cradle. Coming from women wrestlers’ No. 1 family in India and having played the sport at the apex level, Ritu had her share of hardships in gearing up to contest at the pinnacle of another sport. Being away from the family she also missed the home food the most, even as she would cook for herself every day.
Amidst the initial challenges of a transitional phase, support of her teammates and encouraging worlds from the coaches kept her going, confesses the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship gold medallist.
She quickly adapted to her new abode in Singapore, which she now calls a home away from home. “There are so many people here from different countries, and I have a great relationship with them. We all are like a big family. I am closest to Brazil’s Maira Mazar, who has been like an older sister to me. We train together, and I have learned a lot from her. She scolds me when I make mistakes (laughs), but she teaches me a lot and explains to me when I make mistakes,” said Ritu.
The win over Nam Hee Kim at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in November was a perfect icing on the cake to sum up Ritu’s MMA journey last year. “I was really excited about the match, as it was my debut. I have competed in several wrestling matches, but competing in a mixed martial arts match was really new for me. I had decided to concentrate on my training and to give 100 percent, and it paid off.
“My confidence increased by tenfold. Love from the fans inspires me to keep going. I talked to my father after the match, and he even had good things to say about the match. He added that I still need to work hard for the title and right now, I need to focus on my training,” Ritu said.
Ritu now is training overtime for her next major MMA goal – to win the championship belt for India in mixed martial arts as she sums up “ I am ready for the contest.”