New Delhi [India], February 23 (ANI): India’s Ritu Phogat, who is currently ranked 4 in ONE Championship atomweight division, is a massive advocate for Mixed Martial Arts in India.
The 27-year-old comes from a famous family of athletes. After winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in 2016, Phogat transitioned to MMA a few years later and is on a mission to become the nation’s first-ever female champion in a major organisation.
MMA is certainly much younger than more established sports. ONE Championship only came into being in 2011, and Phogat added that she would like to see more people open their minds to the sport she loves as opposed to merely sticking to more established games.
“We as a nation need to widen our acceptance of other sports apart from cricket and football. While wrestling, MMA and other combat sports are rising in popularity in some states, it is important that authorities take notice of these sports and hunt and nurture talented youngsters that are interested in pursuing MMA,” said Phogat.
Phogat is undeniably India’s biggest MMA star. Despite only having turned pro in 2019, the Balali-born fighter already has a 9-2 record and reached the final of the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix in December.
Her ultimate goal is to bring a world title back to India – a feat she believes will help nurture her country’s burgeoning love of the sport.
“I would really like to see India bringing the ONE Championship Belt back home. I would also want to see the Indian flag unfurled at the biggest MMA Stage in the world and would like to contribute to this proud moment for our country,” said Phogat.
As it stands, MMA is still a relatively niche sport in a country of over a billion people. But organizations like the All India Martial Arts Association are seeking to nurture the continued growth of the sport.
“It is a great initiative. Many people are turning towards MMA these days. The presence of this association will help in developing a culture with martial arts as the focus. Budding enthusiasts can find the right mentors and training institutes,” she added.
Despite the progress made by the All India Martial Arts Association, Phogat wants to see continued improvement in infrastructure and coaching for budding young martial artists.
“I feel the training given to these young MMA enthusiasts can be of superior quality. This can thereby lead to building a MMA community in itself. Such endeavours will encourage more young individuals to take up sports like MMA,” she said.
Currently ranked 4 in the ONE atomweight division, Phogat is not far from achieving her dream of becoming an MMA world champion.
With her next fight expected to be announced soon, she could be about to take one step closer to the belt. And with each win she racks up, ‘The Indian Tigress’ helps to grow the sport of MMA back home a little more each time. (ANI)