New Delhi : India’s star athlete and ONE Championship fighter Ritu Phogat is set to win the belt at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX against Nou Srey Pov when she takes on the Cambodian MMA sensation on October 30 in Singapore.The 25-year-old, who put forth a gutsy showing against experienced opponent Wu Chiao Chen of China, registering her second Championship win last February, recently shared insights on the build-up for her bout against Srey Pov.
Q: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your life? How have you managed training and keeping a positive mental attitude?
A: Yes, my training has obviously been impacted, especially because for me, MMA is a new sport. So it has been a challenging transition. I am also living in a new country, Singapore, all by myself. So it has definitely been hard because the game is new and the country is new. Also, I don’t have my sisters around or my father to take advice from.
However, during the lockdown when training was halted because wrestling and grappling are contact sports, the coaches helped me by making training videos. But everything has slowly become better now because the lockdown has eased considerably in Singapore and now I am working out and training at the gym. I have been working on improving my striking technique as I want to show the world that we Indians are ‘all rounders’. On field or off field!But yes, it is quite unfortunate that the pandemic has caused problems for everyone around the world.
Q: How are you keeping your morale up during such tough times?
A: My motivation has always been my father and his words, he has always said to me – You have to sacrifice to win something. My prime goal is to make my family and my country proud. I am here all by myself and I’ve left my country behind, my sisters behind, hence, my sole focus is on doing the best and that is my motivation.
Q: What will be your participation in wrestling on behalf of India, will you be participating in wrestling matches now?
A: I have moved away from wrestling now and am now training in MMA.
Q: How challenging will it be to fight in an empty arena? How will this experience be? Also, what kind of a diet have you been following and who is your inspiration?
A: My sisters have always been my inspiration. I have always watched them wrestle and I have tried to emulate them, and now I want to make my country proud in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) space.Yes, no audience in the stadium will definitely feel different as crowds can provide motivation and cheer. But when I step into the ring, my sole focus is my opponent. Besides, an empty stadium means that you can hear nothing but your coach, guiding you through the match.
Q: What do you think India’s position will be in the upcoming Olympics?
A: I strongly believe that Indians are really raising the benchmark with every match/game we play. Today, we are tough competitors to some of the greatest athletes across the world. Our athletes are working hard and I feel that we will surely do well at the Olympics.
Q: What will your strategy be while playing against your opponent Nou Srey Pov?
A: She is an experienced MMA champion and it will be a tough and interesting fight between the both of us. I am ready and have worked extremely hard for this. I am ready to give it my best! And as far as strategies are concerned, I would want each one of you to tune in and watch some of the strategies I deploy against the opponent.
Q: You wanted to be the first Indian to win an MMA world title. How close are you to that dream? Also what sets you apart from other Indian fighters? What are the weaknesses of your opponent that you have studied?
A: I am not far from my dream of bagging the world championship title in MMA because I have been working hard for a long time now. One Championship has also announced a Grand Prix tournament next year which will feature eight champions.My target is to get selected for that tournament although my first focus is my upcoming match. My opponent is a good fighter and I have studied her strengths and weaknesses, you will see it in my match!
Q: What are you doing to promote MMA in India?
A: My goal is to win and make MMA popular in India firstly. India is not short on talent. I just want to be an inspiration so that others approach MMA more seriously. I want to induce conversations around the sport in the country to give it the recognition it deserves.
Q: Your previous bouts have been similar wins, what will you do differently this time. What are your expectations from this bout?
A: Yes, I have worked on a different strategy to win this time. I want to win this match a little differently. My goal this time will be to knockout my opponent.
Q: How do you want to win this fight, do you want to do something differently.
A: Yes, I definitely want to break out of my wrestling mould and do something different. I want people and my opponents to know that I am not just a wrestler and I know how to strike.
Q: You are called ‘the female Khabib Nurmagomedov’ by Indian fans since you’re both a world class wrestler and are undefeated. Have you seen him fight?
A: Yes, I have been very motivated by him and I watch a lot of his videos. I like his fighting style a lot and I am inspired by him. I aspire to be like him some day.
Q: Have you drawn any particular lessons from Nurmagomedov?
A: Yes, his control on the ground is immense. I keep watching his videos to learn more.
Q: How has staying away from your family been and how much support does your family provide?
A: Of course, staying away from my family has been very difficult. At home, I could solely focus on my training, here, since I am on my own, I have to manage my strict diet and training and everything else at home, I have to be self reliant.
Q: Apart from your sisters, which other sports personalities are your icons?
A: Virat Kohli is really inspiring, I like watching his training videos. Also, like I said, Khabib is very inspirational for me.