"it was something which I really wanted to try out."
Ritu Phogat has described India as the “future of MMA”.
The rising fighter is a well-known name as her sisters and father, Mahavir Phogat, were loosely portrayed in the Aamir Khan film Dangal.
Ritu started wrestling from a young age before making the move to MMA.
She said: “We come from a very small village in Haryana called Balali.
“As a girl, there weren’t many career options to choose from. Wrestling was something I grew up watching and living, so I took up the sport at the age of seven.
“Since then, there has been no looking back.
“Fast-forward to 2019, I got an opportunity to try my hand at MMA after winning several medals for my country and state.”
Ritu wrestled but would often think about other forms of martial arts, such as kickboxing.
She told YourStory: “When the MMA opportunity came knocking on my door, I thought why not?
“And it was something which I really wanted to try out. I am more of the adventurous one in my family.”
While Ritu Phogat achieved wrestling success, which includes a gold medal at the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship, she was not immune to gender stereotypes.
But her sisters broke those stereotypes.
She elaborated: “However, my sisters were the ones who broke the stereotype and won international medals in wrestling.
“So, for me, it was not that difficult.
“In India, women have had a different role to play in society – we were considered more as homemakers and nurturers, or at least that was the popular belief.
“But things are now different and the mindset has changed considerably.
“Now women are thriving in all aspects of life and our expectations have also changed drastically.”
She added that her sisters have shielded her and faced all the challenges before she even started wrestling.
“But yes, in a lot of international tournaments, people didn’t take me too seriously owing to my Indian roots, but I ensured that their notions about the country and the women there had changed before they left the stadium.”
Since transitioning to MMA, Ritu Phogat has an undefeated record of 4-0. She is currently competing in ONE Championship.
Ritu is now set to face Bi Nguyen at ONE: Dangal. It is a tape-delayed event that will air on May 15, 2021.
On the event, Ritu said: “It is a special IP for the Indian market as it celebrates a host of Indian Mixed Martial Arts athletes and presents them on a global stage.”
She also said that the event reflects India’s determination, calling the country MMA’s future.
“It reflects India’s resilience, fighting spirit, and the mettle to take challenges head-on.”
“It also goes on to show that the future of MMA is India, and that we have the potential and the muscle to add a new dimension to the sport.
“Coming from the land of Dangal, the core of MMA is deeply rooted in our culture and we have the required skill-set to succeed.
“We have a plethora of super fighters in the country and it is about time that we recognise them.”
Despite only being in the early stages, Ritu has drawn comparisons to undefeated MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov.
On the comparisons, Ritu said: “I look up to him and he has been a great source of inspiration for me.
“I love his control over his opponents and his ‘explosive’ aura in the circle.”