Ritu Phogat’s Incredible Journey To The Atomweight Grand Prix Final

Ritu Phogat makes her way to the Circle at ONE: NEXTGEN.

Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is only two years into her mixed martial arts career, but she’s already within touching distance of a strap in The Home of Martial Arts.

On Friday, 3 December, the Indian superstar will face off against Stamp Fairtex in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS. The winner will claim the prestigious silver belt and become the next World Title challenger for reigning atomweight queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Phogat since the tournament was announced. Before her massive co-main event clash with Stamp, let’s revisit the incredible run that ultimately took her to the final.

How It Started

When ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong first announced the tournament in October 2020, Phogat was 2-0 and just beginning her new journey in MMA.

By the end of the year, “The Indian Tigress” had added two more wins to her slate, putting her in a perfect position to challenge the division’s elite. 

And when the Grand Prix participants were chosen in February 2021 – with Phogat officially included – the Evolve athlete was brimming with confidence and ready to prove she could hang with the best atomweights on the planet. 

A Brief Exit

Still relatively new to mixed martial arts, the Indian wrestling sensation wanted to stay busy until the tournament got underway. She accepted a bout against Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen at ONE: DANGAL despite knowing that a setback could knock her out of the eight-woman field. 

Before their matchup, Nguyen stated that she would not be a “warmup fight” for anybody – and she made good on that promise. Phogat dropped a split decision in an extremely close battle with the Vietnamese-American and was removed from the Grand Prix as a result.

“The Indian Tigress” was extremely disappointed, but instead of hanging her head, she was determined to get back on the horse and try to earn her spot back. 

Motivated by her famous father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, the Indian athlete outworked “MMA Sister” Lin Heqin in her next fight to earn a convincing unanimous decision win at ONE: BATTLEGROUND.

It was enough for ONE’s matchmakers to put “The Indian Tigress” back into the Grand Prix bracket.

A Stunning Tournament Run

The biggest tournament in women’s mixed martial arts kicked off at the groundbreaking all-female event, ONE: EMPOWER, in September this year.

Phogat was elated to be competing, but she had a serious task ahead of her in the quarterfinals – a date with #2-ranked contender and tournament favorite Meng Bo

Things looked grim for “The Indian Tigress” when she was hurt by a right hand from the Chinese powerhouse early in the bout. But just as she’d done after being removed from the Grand Prix, Phogat bounced back. 

The 27-year-old absorbed Meng’s early pressure, regained her senses, and came back stronger. She dominated the second and third rounds to claim the biggest win of her career and booked her slot in the next round. 

Phogat was originally set to face fellow unbeaten atomweight Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata in the semifinals at ONE: NEXTGEN in October, but the Japanese star was forced to withdraw from the battle on short notice. 

In stepped Filipino phenom Jenelyn Olsim, but the goal remained the same for “The Indian Tigress.”

Despite some spirited attacks from her young rival, Phogat used her wrestling and ground-and-pound to control the contest, earn a unanimous decision, and secure her place in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final.

The Grand Finale

Stamp and Ritu Phogat square-off inside the Circle at ONE: NEXTGEN.

Immediately after defeating Olsim, Phogat watched closely as Stamp defeated Julie Mezabarba with a convincing unanimous decision of her own to cement the final matchup.

That contest will take place at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS in Singapore on Friday, 3 December – and now, there’s a maximum of three rounds left between “The Indian Tigress” and her tournament goal.

The Indian Wrestling Champion’s confidence has exploded due to her recent run of form. She truly believes she’s the front-runner for the Grand Prix belt and will become the division’s next #1 contender.

“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.”

Read more: 5 Reasons To Be Excited For Qiu Jianliang’s Massive ONE Debut

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