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MMA

How Ritu Phogat qualified for the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix Final

Ritu Phogat will face off against Stamp Fairtex on December 3, aiming to be the first Indian woman to win an MMA Grand Prix belt.

Indian wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter Ritu Phogat (Source: Getty)
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Indian wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter Ritu Phogat (Source: Getty)

By

Soumya Bontra

Updated: 2021-12-01T17:30:52+05:30

Ritu "The Indian Tigress" Phogat is just a game away from winning the coveted silver belt and becoming the first Indian woman to win an MMA Grand Prix belt.

Well-known Indian wrestling champion, Ritu Phogat has also made her name known in the mixed martial arts world, in just two years. Ritu will face off against Stamp Fairtex on 3rd December in the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS. The winner of this final will win the esteemed silver belt and also become the next World Title challenger for reigning atomweight queen "Unstoppable" Angela Lee.

However, the ride to the Grand Prix final was not an easy ride for the Indian superstar. Ahead of the MMA finals, let's take a look at Ritu's incredible journey in the tournament.

The Beginning of the journey

When the ONE tournament was announced in October 2020, Ritu was just beginning her MMA career. By the end of the year, she had four wins in her bag which made her eligible to challenge the division's elite. In February 2021, Ritu was chosen for the Grand Prix tournament. A confident Ritu, ready to prove herself, took her first step towards the road to the finals.

Indian wrestler and MMA athlete Ritu Phogat

A huddle in between

To keep herself busy until the tournament began, the Indian wrestling champion participated in a bout against Bi "Killer Bee" Nguyen at ONE: Dangal. Ritu was well aware of the fact that a setback in the tournament could knock her out of the eight-woman field. To her disappointment, Ritu lost the match lost the bout to Nguyen in a close battle and as a result was removed from the Grand Prix.

However, this loss did not discourage "The Indian Tigress", as she went on to win her next fight against "MMA Sister" Lin Heqin at ONE: Battleground. This win was enough for the ONE matchmakers to put Ritu back in the Grand Prix bracket.

A phenomenal tournament run

ONE: EMPOWER, the biggest tournament in women's MMA kicked off in September 2021. Though Ritu was thrilled to be competing in the event, she had a difficult challenge ahead of her – a quarterfinal bout against tournament favourite and 2nd ranked contender Meng Bao.

Things started on a gloomy note for Ritu, when the Chinese powerhouse hit her with a right-hand punch, early in the bout. However, Ritu knew how to make a powerful comeback. She completely dominated the second and third rounds, to register one of the biggest wins of her MMA career.

Ritu was set to face the unbeaten atomweight Itsuki "Android 18" Hirata in the semifinals, but the Japanese opposition was forced to withdraw from the tournament on short notice. Hence, Ritu then faced Filipino youngster Jenelyn Olsim, where "The Indian Tigress" used her wrestling tactics to secure her place in the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final.

The Showdown

After an incredible tournament run, Ritu has become more confident and believes she will soon become the division's No.1 contender. In her post-match interview, Ritu said, "I think Stamp is petrified of me because she has seen my outstanding wrestling skills," Phogat says of the former Muay Thai and kickboxing queen.

"She will not underestimate me because of all that she has [already] seen. I'm going to be even more dangerous, and I'm going to unleash myself on my opponent in the next match."

"The Indian Tigress" can't wait to claim the silver belt and set an example for the younger generation of the country. "I am feeling very good. The goal I had before coming here, I am very close to it. I want to give my best in this match and, very soon, [fulfill the] aim I had of becoming a champion. I will open a new path for all of the younger generation."

Ritu Phogat will battle Stamp Fairtex for the ONE Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship in the co-main event of ONE: WINTER WARRIORS at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, 3 December.

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