The upcoming decade can be surely considered a golden era for Indian sports as Indian players are marking their presence in almost all games worldwide. One such player is our very own Ritu Phogat who is very close to become India’s first MMA Champion. The former wrestler is a win away from earning a first title shot on the MMA circuit. The wrestler-turned-MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter will take on Thai striker Stamp Fairtex in the final of the ONE Atomweight Grand Prix tournament. The winner of the contest at the Singapore Indoor Stadium gets a title shot.
Ritu Traded Her Mat For A Cage
In early 2019, the two-time junior world silver medallist in wrestling Ritu traded the mat for the cage and shifted to Singapore. “I want to be the first Indian world champion in MMA,” she had declared. The pandemic, and a loss earlier this year at an event titled ‘ONE Championship: Dangal’, hindered the campaign. But the 27-year-old has bounced back with three gutsy wins, and the MMA world is taking notice.
In November, megastar Conor McGregor — out with a broken leg — seemingly discovered India and the 1.3 billion-strong potential consumer base for his whiskey brand. Sandwiched between references to yoga, chess, the Golden Temple and India’s ‘national drink whiskey’, the Irishman retweeted news of Ritu’s latest victory with the caption: “Rooting for the Indians to make a stamp in this game soon.”
Friday March A Key To Her Career
Her match-up on Friday is a throwback to the early days of the sport, where practitioners of various martial arts engaged in ‘what if’ contests. Fairtex, 24, is a striker supreme, with nearly 100 kickboxing, muay thai, and MMA fights under her belt. The records are identical at 7-1. Five of Fairtex’s seven wins have come via stoppages i.e. knockouts and submissions. Ritu has three ground-and-pound stoppages to her name. For Fairtex, it’s about keeping the distance and striking Ritu from the outside. The Indian meanwhile has to move inside and take the fighter down. “If the fight goes to the ground, I will have to find a way to get back into my own game,” Fairtex said during a recent interview with ONE commentator Michael Schiavello.
“I will not play her game. I think that if she tried to stand and fight with me, she would get knocked out.” Ritu hasn’t gone scot-free. A feisty, rough competitor since her wrestling days, Ritu has often tried standing her ground and trading blows, and has been punched in the face for her efforts. On the ground, she has been put into perilous positions, with opponents looking to contort her limbs into submission or choke her out. But what she lacks in finesse, she makes up for with her heart. “Ritu is a warrior and has many strengths,” Siyar Bahadurzada, Ritu’s coach at Evolve, told a leading news agency. “Her wrestling, work ethic, and one that exceeds them all is her mental toughness”. The country must cheer for this youngster! No matter what the result it!