Inspired by Khabib Nurmagomedov and cheered on by Conor McGregor, Ritu Phogat eyes glory at One Championship return
Ritu Phogat will take on Singapore's Tiffany Teo at One Championship event One 161, which is scheduled to take place on September 29.
Having already established herself as India's strongest MMA prospect, Ritu Phogat hopes for another commanding display on her return to the Cage. The wrestler-turned-MMA fighter will take on Singapore's Tiffany Teo at One Championship event One 161, which is scheduled to take place on September 29. The Indian's journey at the Singapore-based MMA platform has so far been a tale of highs and lows, which saw her complete seven wins out of nine fights. However, she missed out on being India's first MMA champion, losing the title shot against Thailand's Stamp Fairtex, who made her tap out with a strong arm bar in the final.
“It was a great experience as I had five fights in a year. Got to learn a lot irrespective of the outcome, especially when we face defeat we get to learn a lot from it. So experience wise I've learnt a lot and my focus is on getting better on the things I lack," said Phogat in an exclusive interaction with hindustantimes.com over a zoom call.
Phogat clearly was the second favourite in the clash against Fairtex, which was evident as the fight proceeded. Although the contest lasted for a little over seven minutes, the Thai dictated the proceedings with her strong hold, which eventually turned unbearable for Phogat. “I had prepared very hard for the match, but when I stepped in the cage I couldn't do what I had hoped to. I believe it was not my day. The way my body had to function, unfortunately it couldn't happen. But this time I'll work even harder and win the title,” she said.
Sharing her present status, with her next fight approaching soon, Phogat said: “I had an injury on my shoulder and I've recovered just two-three months back. And the training is going great.”
Conor McGregor takes notice
Phogat didn't win the final but her effort received recognition from MMA's most celebrated fighter Conor McGregor. Moments after her loss against Fairtex, the former UFC champion took to Twitter to lift the Indian. He wrote: “Hard luck today Ritu Phogat! A setback for a greater comeback! Let’s go Ritu! Let’s go India! We march on!”
The 28-year-old was overwhelmed with the gesture but prefers to side with her idol and McGregor's greatest rival Khabib Nurmagomedov. “One of the top fighters in MMA is cheering for you, there cannot be anything bigger than this. It motivated me but I have always followed Khabib's footsteps. He also has a wrestling background, I think our style is also similar, so he's always been my favourite and will remain,” she said.
Indian MMA promoters
While Phogat continues to make long strides in the Asian MMA circuit, India too has seen a surge in the sport. Matrix Fight Night, the biggest MMA platform of India, has been successfully showcasing talents from various state in the country. “I've seen it and I know that the level is still not very high but I'm happy because promotions like this will lift the MMA circuit in our nation. And this is one of the reasons I work very hard here. One Championship is a bigger stage and it gives me a platform to show that even India has great fighters," she said.
Phogat is an Under Armour sponsored athlete, and terms the association a "happy one" with both "sharing a common goal".