After steamrolling the competition in 2020, Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat plans to build on that momentum in her first bout of the new calendar year.
The undefeated Indian wrestling megastar will stand toe-to-toe with Vietnamese-American sensation Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen in an atomweight mixed martial arts showdown at ONE: DANGAL, which airs from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday, 15 May.
“I’m really excited about this match. I want to kick-start my 2021 with a win,” Phogat says.
“My record is 4-0 so far, and I wish to continue this trend. I’ve done plenty of hard work this year, so I want to show something new in my next fight. I’m eager to show my improved skills to my fans.”
The Commonwealth Wrestling Championships gold medalist, whose legendary family inspired the 2016 Bollywood blockbuster film “Dangal” – also the name of ONE’s upcoming event – has made incredible strides since transitioning to mixed martial arts in 2019.
Along with her world-class grappling, the Indian superstar is developing a formidable striking repertoire and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills under the World Champion instructor team at Evolve MMA in Singapore.
That combination has led Phogat to four dominant victories on the global stage, including her most recent first-round TKO of Filipina phenom Jomary “The Zamboanginian Fighter” Torres at ONE: BIG BANG in December.
“I really wanted to end the match with perfection. I started with striking, but once she started attacking me, it got easier for me to go for a takedown. I controlled the match to perfection and finished the contest,” the 26-year-old Indian said earlier this year.
“It was a really tough challenge because she is a great fighter, but she had no chance. Maybe it was just my day. I had worked hard for this, and I trusted my effort. I am happy that I managed to implement that.”
At ONE: BIG BANG, Phogat also happened to cross paths with “Killer Bee,” who even lent her a helping hand.
“Bi is a wonderful human being and a friend,” the Indian said. “She braided my hair before my last fight, too.”
Phogat may call the Vietnamese-American a friend, but she’ll have no problem putting that relationship aside and getting down to business in their atomweight encounter.
For her part, Nguyen possesses a solid all-around game, but she is known primarily for striking – something fans witnessed when she defeated Puja Tomar in a ONE Super Series Muay Thai clash back in September 2019.
Moreover, “Killer Bee” proved her toughness when she went three rounds with former two-sport queen Stamp Fairtex in a mixed martial arts contest two months later.
While “The Indian Tigress” acknowledges that her opponent poses a massive threat on the feet, she believes it won’t be enough to overcome her own skill set.
“Bi’s stand-up game is very strong. Her mixed martial arts career has been better, too. She has tons of experience. She had the chance to fight with top-five [athletes] in the world, but I have put in lots of hard work,” Phogat offers.
“I’ll say wrestling is going to prove mightier than striking. You will all get to see how a wrestler turns superior on a striker. You will see improvement in my striking.
“When I enter the Circle, I do not see whether my opponent is a World Champion or whatever her level of achievement may be. I try to give my 110 percent inside the ring so that when I step out, I don’t have any regrets.”
For Phogat, there is even more at stake than her spotless record.
“The Indian Tigress” also earned an invitation to compete in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix, with the quarterfinal round taking place at ONE: EMPOWER on 28 May.
Phogat is scheduled to face #2-ranked atomweight contender Meng Bo at that event, but first, she must get past “Killer Bee.”
“To fulfill my dream of winning the Grand Prix, it is very important to defeat Bi, and I wish to fulfill it step-by-step and proceed toward my goal,” the Indian star says.
“I’m not at all overconfident, but yes, I’m fully confident that I’ll win this match. Losing is not an option for me.”
With a chance to win the biggest women’s mixed martial arts tournament in history and earn the right to challenge atomweight queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee later in 2021, this could certainly be a banner year for Phogat.
For now, she’s fully focused on kicking things off in style.