Ritu Phogat delivers on promise on MMA debut

Former Commonwealth gold medallist Ritu Phogat beat South Korea's Kim Nam-Hee in about three minutes at the One Championship.

Ritu Phogat's MMA career is off to a successful start after a win in round one of the One Championship in Beijing.   -  Reuters

Crowds cheering, A.R.Rahman's Vande Mataram playing in the background - one won't be blamed to think this was a home match for wrestler-turned-MMA fighter Ritu Phogat. The setting, however, was Beijing. The occasion - Phogat's MMA debut.

The 25-year-old's mixed martial arts career got off to a flying start with a win on debut in the One Championship in Beijing on Saturday. She beat South Korea's Kim Nam-Hee on a technical knockout, with 90 seconds left on the clock.

Phogat is participating in the atomweight category of the contest for competitors weighing 49kg or less.



In just over three minutes, the former Commonwealth champion found herself on the victorious side of the ring. The Indian Tigress, as she is called, first bulldozed Nam-Hee to the floor but let her off the hook, allowing the Korean to get back on her feet. Under a minute later, Phogat got Nam-Hee back on the mat again, trapping her arm before unleashing a barrage of blows to win by virtue of technical knockout.

Ahead of her debut, Phogat had said, "“I want to become a mixed martial arts World Champion, and everything I’m doing now is preparing me for that,” said the 25-year-old Indian ahead of her first foray into the mixed martial arts arena."

READ : Ritu Phogat to make MMA debut

“I made the decision to jump into this with my full heart and will. My goal is to become the first Indian woman to win a mixed martial arts World Championship. I believe I’m in a great position to represent my country and I want to inspire as many women as I can. It’s an honor.”

Phogat is a Commonwealth Wrestling Championships gold medalist, World U23 Wrestling World Championships silver medalist, Asian Wrestling Championships bronze medalist, and multiple-time Indian National Wrestling Champion.

The wrestler-turned-MMA fighter walked out to cheers from the Chinese crowds.  Remember, Dangal, a Hindi movie based on the life of her sisters Geeta and Babita, opened in China to much success, possibly explaining Ritu's popularity at the competition venue.

Three other Indians are also in the fray in the championships - Himashu Kaushik, Pooja Tomar and Rahul Raju.

China's Meng Bo also made heads turn after knocking out former title challenger Laura Balin on debut.

Ritu's Rahman connection

Asked what she wanted to do next, she said, “I have only one goal and that’s to win the ONE Atomweight World Championship for my country. That’s why I chose A R Rahman’s ‘Vande Mataram’ as my walkout song, listening to it fills me with enthusiasm and makes me want to do something for India. For me it’s all about becoming the first Indian world champion in MMA.”

After her dominant debut victory, Ritu, who hails from the hallowed Phogat family known for their excellence in wrestling, thanked them, “I want to thank my sisters and my family, they believed in me and motivated me. I want thank everyone for their support, I promise I’ll always give my one hundred percent.”

Speaking about the bout, Ritu said it was always her plan to go for the takedown at the very beginning.

“I believed that if I got her down early, I could finish her via ground and pound. The plan worked.”

(With inputs from PTI)