Updated: October 3, 2020 8:46:58 pm
For someone who belongs to a family of celebrated wrestlers, it was a big decision for Indian world wrestling champion Ritu Phogat to make a career in another combat sport — that of Mixed Martial Arts or MMA. After more than a year of MMA training at Evolve MMA (Asia’s premier championship academy for martial arts), Phogat is all set to join ‘The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition’, a take on the popular non-scripted reality TV programme that judges the business skills of a group of contestants competing for a job offer with a high-profile CEO.
“I have been a wrestler all my life, but I was also interested and curious about MMA. I used to watch it, but didn’t know how I could do it, or where to train, etc. I also always wondered why there aren’t any Indian world champions in MMA,” the 26-year-old told indianexpress.com.
When the opportunity to train at Evolve MMA in Singapore came her way, Phogat decided to “give it a shot”. “I was little nervous about what my father will say, but he fully supported me, and so did the others,” she said, referring to her father and wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, on whose life the Hindi film Dangal is based.
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But, why MMA? “MMA is art. It’s a beautiful sport with skills and precision. I can only say if you are interested in more than one sport, this is the sport where you can showcase your talent,” Phogat explained.
As part of the MMA’s six-days a week training, she has now learnt Muay Thai, BJJ or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and boxing. “I was learning these for the first time and my coaches here helped me a lot. Finally, in November 2019, I was ready for my MMA debut and it was a special one for me. Wrestling played an important role in my transformation to MMA. Today, I am trying to improve every day,” she said, adding, her favourite technique is the ‘takedown’.
Excited to be part of the reality TV show that is set to premiere early 2021, Phogat said: “The show is all about the business world, but values of sports apply very much in the business world as well. It’s all about teamwork, focus, dedication, competition, etc. It would be fun to be on it. It will be a learning experience for me as well.”
While fitness is synonymous with any kind of sport, the ace wrestler feels optimum fitness is essential for “everyone”. “An unfit person cannot work to their full potential, as sooner or later, their body will take the toll. As women, we have our own set of hurdles, but we have to maintain optimum fitness for our body and mind to perform,” she said.
“For all women who are working — with kids, without kids, married or not — just find the time to exercise for 30-45 minutes a day. It can be your time. You can go for a run or cycling or humming or yoga — anything that suits your preference. That will change your entire day. You will be more charged up,” Phogat added.
On how much her diet has evolved, she said: “My diet has been the same as a pehelwan. Pehelwani in India is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle. You train in akharas, you eat organic food, you have a lot of almonds, milk and ghee. You train for six hours a day, you eat and you rest. That’s the mantra of being fit. Over the years, I have become accustomed to following this routine which changed a little when I started going to camps and international tournaments. But one consistent thing has been ghee; it is good for your body. Even here in Singapore, when I came in last year, I ensured I eat home-cooked meals as I find them tasty and healthy”.
Phogat said roti with ghee and kadhi are her favourites.
Pandemic or not, her “immunity tips stay the same”, she revealed. “Just eat good homemade food, eat right food. Spoil your body once a while with cheat days. Exercise and train. Take rest and that’s about it. Your immunity is boosted,” she said in conclusion.
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