Ritu Phogat, who is set to make her maiden appearance in the MMA circuit in the ‘Age of Dragon’ event, hopes that the sport will grow in India after people start watching her matches. She admits that watching a lot of videos on YouTube caught her attention and made her think about a career change.
Ritu Phogat, a member of the famous Phogat wrestling family, is set to make her maiden appearance in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) circuit against South Korea’s Nam Hee Kim in ONE Championship’s ‘Age of Dragon’ event in Beijing on 16 November. Phogat admits that MMA is still relatively unknown in India and has a niche following in the cricket-mad nation. However, she added that it has a lot of potentials to grow once it gets familiarised.
“I see MMA establishing itself in the coming years in India. People in this country don’t know much about the sport, but hopefully, that will change once they see my matches. I hope I play some role in growing the sport in India,” said Ritu Phogat to Firstpost.
Ritu had decided to call it quits in wrestling in February earlier this year in order to devote herself fully to the sport that has already made it big in nations such as the United States, Brazil, Russia, Mexico as well as in Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea. The Haryana native, who currently trains at the Singapore-based EVOLVE MMA, admits that watching a lot of videos on YouTube caught her attention and made her think about a career change.
“I had been watching Mixed Martial Arts for quite some time on platforms such as YouTube. But I didn’t exactly know where the training for this sport takes place. EVOLVE gave me an opportunity (to make a mark in the sport) and I didn’t want to let the chance slip away,” said Ritu.
Coming from a family of wrestlers, which involves both her elder sisters winning accolades in World Wrestling Championships and her father, who is a former wrestler and later a coach, makes one think if Ritu’s decision to change sport was objected. However, Ritu said she wouldn’t be where she is at the moment without her family’s support.
“I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family. Not once did they say ‘no’ to my choice of switching over to MMA.
“They encouraged me to take up the sport of my choice, as long as I gave my hundred percent to it and kept our national flag flying high,” she said
Ritu also received words of encouragement from former American mixed martial artist Miesha Tate, who currently serves as the vice president of ONE Championship.
“She is a very hard worker and I think anybody with the attitude, athletic ability and determination that Ritu Phogat has is destined for greatness,” said the wrestler-turned-MMA icon, a former UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion.
Ritu has been training for her debut for months now. She has practised her skills in various disciplines such as Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), boxing and wrestling. According to the 25-year-old, coming from a wrestling background has its advantages as takedowns — a move in which a mixed martial artist throws his/her opponent off balance and pin them to the mat — are an integral aspect in both grappling as well as in MMA.
The 'Age of Dragons' event, which is set to take place in Beijing's Cadillac Arena, will be telecasted on Star Sports Select in India.
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