She relocated from her native India to Singapore last year to begin her formal training at Evolve, and the move has paid off in a major way.
After several intense months of training, Phogat made a triumphant professional debut at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in Beijing, China in November.
The Indian utilized her grappling prowess to take South Korea’s “Captain Marvel” Nam Hee Kim to the canvas, and then she rained down ground and pound until the referee stopped the contest late in the opening stanza.
Now, with a spectacular TKO victory in the books, the 25-year-old is taking aim at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her momentous year, her goals for 2020, and much more.
???????? DOMINANT DEBUT ????????Indian phenom Ritu Phogat scores a Round 1 TKO against Nam Hee Kim to pick up her first victory in mixed martial arts!????: How to watch ???? http://bit.ly/ONEAODHOTW????: Book your hotel ???? bit.ly/ONEhotelplanner????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? bit.ly/ONESuperApp????: Shop official merchandise ???? bit.ly/ONECShop
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, 16 November 2019
ONE Championship: 2019 was an eventful year for you. You successfully transitioned from wrestling to mixed martial arts. How challenging has this journey been?
Ritu Phogat: It was not easy for me. When you leave a sport and join a new one, you are bound to face challenges. Living in a new country and getting accustomed to the sport’s conditions is not easy, but I have adapted to my surroundings and the sport now.
ONE: What changes have you experienced on a personal level?
RP: Lots of things have changed. Now that I live away from my family, I cook for myself and do all kinds of chores myself. I really miss the chutney that my mother used to make. Although I know how to cook and do it here every day, the taste of the food prepared by your mother cannot be matched by anything else.
ONE: What has been the most difficult thing about this transition?
RP: The most difficult thing was adapting to a new sport, which takes time and patience. But my wrestling background helped a bit. The good part about it has been the encouraging words and compliments I have received from my coaches and teammates.
ONE: Speaking of which, how does it feel to train alongside so many coaches and World Champions at Evolve?
RP: There are so many people here from different countries, and I have a great relationship with them. We all are like a big family.
I am closest to Brazil’s Maira Mazar, who has been like an older sister to me. We train together, and I have learned a lot from her. She scolds me when I make mistakes (laughs), but she teaches me a lot and explains to me when I make mistakes.
ONE: You had a successful debut against Nam Hee Kim at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in November. What was that experience like?
RP: I was really excited about the match, as it was my debut. I have competed in several wrestling matches, but competing in a mixed martial arts match was really new for me. I had decided to concentrate on my training and to give 100 percent, and it paid off.
ONE: You won by first-round TKO. How did that feel?
RP: My confidence increased by tenfold. Love from the fans inspires me to keep going. I talked to my father after the match, and he even had good things to say about the match. He added that I still need to work hard for the title and right now, I need to focus on my training.
ONE: Looking ahead, what is your goal for 2020?
RP: My goal is to win the championship belt for India in mixed martial arts. I am working hard for this. I am learning something new every day and I am trying to concentrate more on my striking, so I hope I win it in 2020.
ONE: The women’s atomweight division is filling up with more and more contenders. Is there anyone, in particular, that you want to face next?
RP: I am training every day. It doesn’t matter who my opponent is, I am always up for it. It can be anyone. I am ready for a contest.