Updated: February 12, 2020 8:02:57 pm
After announcing her arrival in the mixed martial arts circuit on a stellar note, India’s Ritu Phogat is ready to carry forward the momentum in the One Championship tournament. The former Commonwealth gold medalist will step into the ring for her second clash against China’s Wu Chiao Chen on February 28 and has promised her fans of a much-improved display.
“I would like to wrap the contest in the first round itself and this time I would look to knock my opponent out,” said Phogat in an interaction with mediapersons at an ‘open workout session’ in New Delhi.
“I have seen the videos of my opponent’s bout but I haven’t changed anything in my training routine and I’m equally focusing on both – my strength and weakness,” she added.
Ritu kickstarted her mixed martial arts (MMA) career with a dominant performance over South Korean Kim Nam-hee on November 16, a contest that lasted just a little over three minutes before the referee intervened. She was declared the winner by technical knockout. Speaking about the fight, Phogat said it was a good learning experience for her as it highlighted the areas that she needed to focus on.
Against Kim Nam-hee, Phogat had locked her opponent’s arm with a knee and then dictated proceedings by landing punches on her opponent’s face. When asked if she had any second thoughts before opting for such an aggressive approach, the former wrestler said that any hesitation shifts the momentum in the opponent’s favour.
“Mental strength is always essential no matter what game you’re playing. And if we think of not punching or maintaining an attacking mindset, then it will counter and shift the advantage into the opponent’s favour. However, the contest only remains inside the ring and as the match ends we are more like friends,” she told indianexpress.com.
Phogat, who claims to take inspiration from reigning UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, said that meditation and yoga are two things that she practices every day to relieve the mental and physical strain.
“I watch his (Khabib’s) videos on YouTube. I try to observe and emulate the way he executes the takedowns,” Phogat said.
A determined Ritu, who wants to become the first Indian MMA champion, believes in her abilities and doesn’t allow her opponent’s experience to impact her performance. “I try to overlook the age or experience factor in my opponent and trust my abilities and hard work that I have put during the training session and give 100 percent during the match,” she said.
Speaking on her transition from wrestling to MMA, the Haryana-born athlete said, “There is hardly any difference between the two, as we need strength, endurance, and speed in both sports. The only difference is the skills involved. In wrestling, you can only execute takedowns, but here punches and striking also come into account.”
Phogat said that her fitness made the move a lot easier. “It is difficult to switch from one sport to another but since I was physically fit I didn’t have much issue adapting to martial arts,” she said.
While Ritu is ready for her second match, ONE Championship, Asia’s biggest freestyle wrestling association, is planning to host India’s first MMA event in Mumbai, which they are planning to host in Mumbai later this year.
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