Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is determined to reach the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final – even with a surprise opponent standing in her way.
The Indian was originally scheduled to face Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata, but the undefeated Japanese phenom was forced to withdraw from the contest due to an undisclosed medical issue.
Olsim stepped in to replace Hirata on just four days’ notice and poses a completely different threat, but Phogat isn’t fazed by the last-minute change.
“I am fully ready for this,” the 27-year-old wrestling superstar says.
“I have worked hard for this and as a warrior, you must always be prepared. For me, it really doesn’t matter who is the opponent. I don’t mind a new opponent.
“I know who I am. I trust my technique and my family name. These are the things which make me ready to face any opponent.”
Phogat has every right to feel confident in her abilities.
The Indian has made a phenomenal transition from wrestling to mixed martial arts, as she’s masterfully applied her prized grappling to the all-encompassing sport.
Since making her debut in November 2019, Phogat has compiled a 6-1 record, which includes her spectacular come-from-behind victory over Chinese knockout artist Meng Bo in the Grand Prix quarterfinals at the promotion’s first all-female card, ONE: EMPOWER, in September.
And though “The Indian Tigress” was preparing specifically for Hirata’s judo style, she will now revert back to prior training for Olsim, whose strength is Muay Thai and Team Lakay’s brand of wushu.
“I don’t have any concerns here because I have fought strikers before,” Phogat says. “I have trained for this before and have put lots of hard work [in].”
But Olsim isn’t just a striker; she’s a proven threat both on the feet and the ground.
The 24-year-old Filipina impressed in her promotional debut at ONE: FISTS OF FURY III in March, as she rocked Phogat’s Evolve MMA teammate Maira Mazar with punches and submitted her via power guillotine in the third round.
As a result, she earned the #5 contender spot in the women’s strawweight division.
Olsim outstruck the Vietnamese-American, threatened her with submission attempts, and even dropped her with a straight right hand in the second stanza. After three rounds, the Filipina left the Circle with a unanimous decision nod.
At first glance, it could appear like Olsim will carry a psychological advantage into Friday’s matchup. After all, she’s defeated Phogat’s close friend and the only woman to hold a victory over her.
But “The Indian Tigress” doesn’t see it that way. She has a seemingly unbreakable mindset and complete trust in her skill set.
And after studying the Filipina’s previous bouts, Phogat believes her greatest weapon is one of her rival’s most glaring weaknesses.
“I have watched her matches. Her wrestling game is not that strong,” the Indian says of Olsim. “I would like to dominate her with my wrestling. I want to finish this match as soon as possible.”
In addition to winning the semifinal bout and getting another victory on her record, Phogat has a little extra motivation: gaining some redemption for Mazar.
“Yes, definitely, I would love to settle the score,” she says.
Should Phogat indeed topple Olsim, she’ll secure a spot in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship Final.
But it doesn’t matter to Phogat who emerges victorious in the other semifinal. She plans to beat either opponent in the final and earn a date with atomweight queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
“I just want to tell both of them that no one can stop me from winning the belt,” Phogat adds. “I will prove that I am the best.”