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Ritu Phogat: The new face of Indian MMA

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After a sparkling start to her MMA career, Ritu Phogat has emerged as the brightest star in Indian Mixed Martial Arts.

Phogat has only just switched to MMA, leaving behind a very successful wrestling career. The 26-year-old was a gold medallist at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Singapore in 2016, while she claimed bronze at the Asian Games on home soil in 2017. 

Later that year, the talented fighter added a silver medal to her collection at the World Under-23 Championships in Poland. 

The multiple national wrestling champion is from the famous Phogat family. Her father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, is a legendary wrestling coach in India, while her elder sisters, Geeta and Bibita both won Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth championship gold medals for the country. The family’s great exploits were immortalized in the 2016 Bollywood movie, ‘Dangal‘.

Ritu Phogat transitioned to MMA from wrestling

Ritu Phogat

Ritu was widely expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, and was considered a genuine medal prospect at the Games, but she gave up a shot at Olympic glory to chase a dream in mixed martial arts. In a surprising career deviation, she stepped away from the wrestling mat and signed up with top MMA organization, ONE Championship in February 2019.

“I made the decision to jump into this with my full heart and will. My goal is to become the first Indian woman to win a mixed martial arts World Championship”, Phogat said ahead of her MMA debut in November 2019. 

Also Read: MMA on the rise in India, but lots of work still to be done

“I believe I’m in a great position to represent my country and I want to inspire as many women as I can. It’s an honor.”

The road to the world championship remains very long, but “The Indian Tigress” has made the perfect start to her quest. Phogat has quickly raced to a 2-0 record at the ONE Championship, earning a first-round stoppage over Korea’s Nam Hee Kim in her professional debut in Beijing, China, and backing it up with a dominant unanimous points decision over Wu Chiao Chen in Singapore in February 2020.

A dominant MMA career budding

Her superb entry into MMA has earned her numerous rave reviews and comparisons with some of the biggest names in the sport. Some have dubbed her the “Female Khabib”, after the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

“How do you defend against Ritu? How do you defend against a wrestling machine, a wrestling monster, a wrestling superhero”, wonders One Championship expert, Michael Schiavello. 

“Once Ritu gets on top of you, starts to ground and pound, it is game over, you are finished, you are gone”!

So, there’s a pro tip for you. Now you know who to put your money when next you want to place a sports wager! Thankfully, there are many online betting sites in India that offer MMA betting!

As MMA continues to grow in India, more and more stars are emerging from the country. Bharat Kandare became the first Indian to fight at the prestigious UFC in 2017, while Manjit Kolekar was the first Indian woman to compete at the Invicta Fighting Championship. 

There are many other talented Indian MMA fighters, including the charismatic Jason Solomon, affectionately dubbed “The Delhi Don”, Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju, and the super talented young gun, Asha “Knockout Queen” Roka, but given her phenomenal performances at the ONE Championship, Ritu Phogat has arguably jumped the cue to become the brightest prospect in the country.

The Indian Tigress is a woman on an MMA mission.

Also Read: Ritu Phogat interview with Parvin Dabas | The MMA India Show

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