When ONE Championship kicks off their women’s atomweight grand prix at May’s all-female Empower card, Indian wrestler Ritu Phogat stands to be a big part of the equation.
Phogat’s not the most experienced or decorated mixed martial artist in the grand prix. Far from it. At 4-0, she’s rather inexperienced in the sport. But she also holds a gold medal from the 2016 Commonwealth Games in Freestyle Wrestling, and has been dominant in her MMA career thus far. And she’s about to get a crash course in fighting thanks to the tournament format — something she’s already familiar with from her wrestling days.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Phogat said during a recent virtual media day promoting the event, “because there are champions from across the world participating in the competition.”
Asked by Cageside Press if she felt her wrestling background would give her the edge, Phogat replied “Yes, definitely. That’s the game plan. I want to leverage my wrestling skills.” Previous experience will help her during the course of the grand prix, Phogat suggested. “I’m going to use my strengths to make my mark during the grand prix.”
The tournament format often gives fighters a schedule to live by. If you win, you move forward, you know who your next opponent is, and have some idea at least of when you’ll be competing next. But Phogat isn’t putting too much stock in that. At least, she’s more focused about her performances than anything else.
“No matter who the competition is, my performance needs to be up to the mark,” she stated. Even in the grand prix, she will be “facing MMA athletes who are more experienced” than herself, Phogat continued. “Going further on, yes it’s fun to be winning, but no matter who the opponent, no matter how much the experience, all I’m focused on is giving 110% while I’m at the circle.”
I believe all women are pretty without makeup – but with the right makeup can be pretty powerful.🔥❤️ pic.twitter.com/tqTPGw5sB4
— Ritu phogat (@PhogatRitu) March 28, 2021
Her opening round opponent will be China’s Meng Bo, vastly more experienced in terms of fights and years in the sport. “Meng Bo has been unbeatable so far,” Phogat observed. While the Chinese fighter has lost, she has yet to taste defeat under the ONE banner. “She’s known for her standup performance in her previous few matches.” And while Phogat recognizes that her opponent will be tough to defeat, “I’m here for the win. I’m here for the kill,” she added.
Watch the full ONE Championship: Empower virtual media day interview with Ritu Phogat above. ONE Champioship: Empower takes place May 28, 2021, and features all four opening round grand prix fights.