Indian mixed martial arts is on the rise, and will soon experience a landmark moment when the nation celebrates a World Champion.
That is the view of wrestling star and newly-signed ONE Championship athlete Ritu Phogat, who hopes to help usher in a new era of successful athletes from her nation.
The groundwork is being laid with The Home Of Martial Arts’ partnership with Hotstar to air events in India, and Phogat believes that deal will kick-start a spike in popularity for the sport in her homeland.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, 24 May 2019
“I think it’s great that ONE will be televised and streamed in India,” she explains.
“I think India is ready to watch authentic martial arts because the values of martial arts are deeply rooted in our cultures. I think we Indians will be very much connected with ONE’s philosophy.
“Also, I have seen the event live – it’s highly entertaining, and very well packaged. The fans will enjoy their favorite martial artists.
“It will surely capture the imagination of mixed martial arts lovers in India. In fact, this will be the first time fans in India will have direct and free access to see their fellow countrymen and women compete in global martial arts. It won’t be long before they will see the first Indian become a mixed martial arts World Champion.”
The Indian martial arts scene has not had much exposure on a global platform to date, but that has all started to change this year.
Athletes like Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju, Puja “The Cyclone” Tomar, and Himanshu Kaushik have all tasted victory in the world’s largest martial arts organization so far in 2019, which has shown aspiring competitors in their homeland the path to the top has already been mapped out.
Phogat is currently hard at work at Evolve in Singapore, where she is learning the striking and submission grappling skills to add to her elite wrestling skills so she can transition to the ONE Circle.
That will show the door is also open for more athletes to cross codes and compete on the global stage, and the 24-year-old says the presence of a regular TV deal will only serve to motivate more competitors like her to make the switch and chase their goals in mixed martial arts.
“I think this is just the beginning,” the 24-year-old adds.
“India possesses very high-level martial artists like wrestlers and boxers, and with mixed martial arts growing at a very fast pace worldwide, I think more and more athletes will take up the sport and join Asia’s biggest organization.
“It means a lot. For any athlete, the most important thing is to compete for their country and win medals and trophies.
“Now everyone back home can watch me compete and support me, which means the world to us athletes. That is the biggest motivation for us.”
With the market growing fast, and her new sport’s exposure increasing, Phogat also believes it is only a matter of time before we see ONE events in India.
That is likely to be another catalyst for an increase in the popularity of, and support for, Indian martial artists at home.
Phogat adds the chance to compete on their native soil in front of a packed crowd of their compatriots would only inspire Indian athletes like her to push themselves and the sport in her country to new heights.
“It would be fantastic for me to compete in India one day in front of my friends, family, and fans,” she adds.
“I’m hoping that day comes soon!”