When Ritu Phogat came home in Balali from Singapore, her father Mahavir Phogat inquired about the training changes for Mixed Martial Arts. Having trained her daughter in wrestling, Mahavir Phogat knows her strong and weak points. He was impressed with the changes he saw in Ritu, strength-wise.
“He was interested in how I was training for MMA,” Phogat said. “He touched my hands and told me how powerful they are now.”
Ritu Phogat was happy that her father saw her improvement and her decision to move to MMA from wrestling was on the right path. The Indian wrestler will be making her MMA debut at the One: Age of Dragons event in Beijing on November 16.
The Indian wrestler, one of the famed Phogat sisters, will be the most accomplished sportsperson to move to MMA and will fight South Korea’s Na Hee Kim, who has already won a bout.
“Everything is new for me as well but I have done combat sport my whole life so I am confident,” Ritu Phogat said. “I have been practicing so I can achieve success in this as well.”
The 25-year-old has been at the Evolve MMA training centre in Singapore since February this year. The facility was founded by Chatri Sityodtong, who is also the founder to One Championships – the promotion in which Ritu Phogat will compete.
It is not as if Ritu Phogat was not successful at wrestling, a sport in which she was introduced by Mahavir Phogat. The Phogat sisters, subject of the popular Bollywood movie Dangal, have been the pioneers in women’s wrestling in India. Vinesh Phogat, cousin of Ritu Phogat, has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Ritu Phogat too had success on the wrestling mat as she has two silver medals at the junior World Championships, a bronze at Asian Championships and was ranked fifth in the world after finish fifth at the Senior World Championships in 2018.
But MMA presents a different challenge and Ritu Phogat is still getting used to it. “I am trying to learn everything I can,” she said. “There are four sports which are mixed. There is Jiu Jitsu, Muai Thai, wrestling and kickboxing. You can say I am weak in others but when it copmes wrestling holds and everything around it, I know it best.”
It was also a shift in mentality that made Ritu Phogat accept the change of sport. “When you watch it on a screen, it looks brutal,” she said. “But when we train we know where to hit and what not to do. You have to practice those moves and let things work out. Wrestling is also similar when you throw someone or try to finish a move. There are no punches.”
But, will she be ready to take some punches on the face? “I am mentally very strong,” she said. “If I am hitting someone, I will get hit as well so I am ready. Victory or defeat doesn’t matter right now but I want to do well in this sport.”