Indian Ritu Phogat, who is currently ranked 4th in the ONE Championship atomic weight division, is a strong supporter of Mixed Martial Arts in India. The 27-year-old comes from a famous athlete family. 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 country’s first-ever female champion in a major organization. MMA is certainly much younger than more established sports. ONE Championship only came about in 2011, and Phogat added that she would like to see more people open their minds to the sport she loves, rather than sticking to more established games.
“We as a nation need to broaden our acceptance of sports other than cricket and football. While wrestling, MMA and other martial arts are gaining popularity in some states, it is important that authorities take notice of these sports and hunt and nurture talented young people interested in pursuing MMA,” said Phogat.
Phogat is undeniably India’s biggest MMA star. Despite only turning pro in 2019, the Balali-born fighter already has a 9-2 record, reaching 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 says will help nurture her country’s burgeoning love of the sport.
“I would love to see India take home the ONE Championship Belt. I would also love to see the Indian flag unfold on the largest MMA stage in the world and I would love 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 trying to nurture the sport’s continued growth.
“It’s a great initiative. Many people are turning to MMA these days. The presence of this association will help develop a martial arts culture. Beginner enthusiasts can find the right mentors and training institutes,” she added.
Despite the progress made by the All India Martial Arts Association, Phogat aims to see continuous improvement in infrastructure and coaching for budding young martial artists.
“I feel that the training given to these young MMA enthusiasts can be of superior quality. This can therefore lead to building an MMA community in its own right. Such efforts will encourage more young individuals to practice sports like MMA “, she said.
Currently ranked 4th in the ONE atomweight division, Phogat is not far from fulfilling her dream of becoming a world MMA champion.
With her next fight expected to be announced soon, she may be on the cusp of getting one step closer to the title. And with every win she takes, “The Indian Tigress” helps grow the MMA sport at home a little bit more every time.
Topics mentioned in this article