Ritu Phogat’s decision to switch to MMA received full support from family in making the transition

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New Delhi: Ritu Phogat had been following mixed-martial arts since she was young. Born into one of the most popular wrestling family in India, the Phogats, Ritu was bound for success in the sport. In 2016, she won the gold medal at Commonwealth Wrestling Championships and then followed it up with Bronze in Asian Championships in 2017, and a silver in the U-23 World Championships in the same year. In 2019 February came the news that Ritu is leaving the mat to switch to mixed-martial arts.

Joining Asia’s best MMA academy Evolve, and then signing with Asia’s biggest MMA production, One Championship, Ritu chose a career much different from her sisters Babita, Geeta and Vinesh. “Everyone questioned why you are leaving wrestling. I thought if you want to do something different, you have to take risks. I always wondered why there has never been a MMA Champion from India,” she told reporters at an event in New Delhi.

The decision to switch to MMA was not an easy one. But the grappler received full support from her family in making the transition. “Father always wanted his daughters to take India to the top. So it doesn’t matter whatever sport I am playing, he wants us to make the country proud. He constantly supported me,” she said in front of her father Mahavir Phogat, who was also present at the event.

The first part of the transition to MMA was to leave her life in India behind and settle down in Singapore. Ritu admits she faced troubles in adjusting to a new city. “It was the first time I was living alone without my sisters, and that too in a new city. Adjusting there was difficult for me. It took a few months to get myself sorted. But now I am all settled,” she says.

Learning the new techniques of MMA was the next challenge. While wrestling involves grappling, MMA also involves a fair amount of punching, kick-boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and other forms of martial arts. Ritu explained the difference: “There is not much differences in training, but there is difference in the skill set you have to learn. You need more speed, strength and endurance. We need to learn striking, jiu jitsu, muay thai etc.”

Ritu’s sparring partner at Evolve, Maira Mazar from Brazil, who herself is a MMA fighter for One Championship promotion in the 57kg category, further gave a glimpse of the Indian grappler’s early days in MMA.

 

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