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A Phogat ventures into combat sport

In February 2019, Ritu Phogat signed up with the One Championship

Madhumita Ganguly Calcutta Published 26.11.19, 09:25 PM
Ritu Phogat

Ritu Phogat Sourced by The Telegraph

November 16, 2019, was a red letter day in the life of Ritu Phogat. That was the day the Indian wrestler successfully made her debut in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), defeating Kim Nam-hee of South Korea at the One Championship in Beijing.

The Phogat family’s achievements in wrestling are well documented, the stuff of Bollywood movies. Aamir Khan’s Dangal brought before the world the struggles, sacrifices and rigorous training her sisters, Geeta and Babita, underwent under the strict supervision of their father Mahavir, played by the superstar.


Ritu, too, has no mean achievements to her credit. A Commonwealth Wrestling champion in 2016 in the 48kg category, a silver medal winner in the World U-23 Wrestling Championships in Bydgoscz, Poland, in 2017, multiple-time Indian national wrestling champion and the most expensive female wrestler at the Pro Wrestling League Auction in December 2016, bagging a Rs 36-lakh contract with the Jaipur Ninjas franchise, are among some of them.

Ritu has, however, decided to chart a different destiny for herself.

“I had been watching a lot of Mixed Martial Arts for a while and had become hugely interested in it,” Ritu told The Telegraph from Singapore where she is now training.

“While wrestling, I was also watching a lot of MMA videos. Gradually I made up my mind to take the plunge. My one big ambition now is to give India its first MMA world champion.”

In February 2019, Ritu signed up with the One Championship.

So what exactly is mixed martial arts? It is a full contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various combat sports and martial arts.

Ritu had to start from scratch, training in boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the Evolve MMA facility in Singapore. “The techniques are different from wrestling for sure. It is tough but I too am ready,” she said.

That she is indeed ready was amply proved in her very first MMA action in which the 25-year-old took down her South Korean opponent in just over three minutes on a technical knockout at the One: Age of Dragons event in Beijing’s Wukesong Arena.

Ritu is participating in the atomweight category of the contest for competitors weighing 49kg or less.

“Of course there was a bit of nervousness prior to my debut but the bout proper, as such, did not feel any different. And of course I was thrilled after I successfully overcame my first hurdle,” she said.

The initial euphoria over, Ritu was immediately back at training in Singapore. “I train three times a day,” she said. “There is much to learn. I have to keep improving to reach my target of becoming the world champion,” she added.

That her family is right behind her, rooting for her, has been a big help.

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