Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is coming into her next fight with a huge chip on her shoulder.
The 27-year-old from Haryana, India has been doubted and underestimated since making the transition from wrestling to mixed martial arts in 2019. However, Phogat has developed well as an MMA fighter over the years, and is now the #4-ranked atomweight contender in ONE Championship.
Since her pro MMA debut, Phogat has embarked on a tremendous run, winning six of her first seven fights to prove doubters wrong. Phogat now wants to warn her remaining critics not to doubt her any further.
“Don’t underestimate me because I have the power, I have the strength to prove you wrong. Watch out, don’t underestimate me at all,” a fired up Phogat said in a recent virtual faceoff interview with ONE Championship.
The criticism headed Phogat’s way is understandable. After all, coming from a proud pehlwani wrestling clan in her native India, Phogat’s main skill set remains her grappling. But this hasn’t stopped Phogat from pursuing mixed martial arts greatness, and adding world-class striking to her fighting arsenal.
Phogat has been hard at work, honing her Muay Thai and kickboxing skills with her world champion teammates at the renowned Evolve MMA in Singapore. The 24-year-old has exhibited sharp improvement in her standup game over the last few years.
Still, fans continue to question her ability to strike with the best of them.
“People sort of underestimate my striking because they haven’t seen much of my striking yet. All the while, wrestling has been my strongest weapon and I continue to leverage this to pin down my opponents,” Phogat said.
“I will continue to capitalize on this to emerge victorious in my upcoming fights. Definitely striking is an area that I am improving in and you would get to see a lot of it in the upcoming matches.”
Phogat will return to action this Friday night at ONE: NEXTGEN against the Philippines’ Jenelyn Olsim. The semifinal round of the historic ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix headlines the event, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 29 October.
Olsim is stepping in at the last minute to replace Phogat’s original Grand Prix opponent, Itsuki Hirata, who has withdrawn from the tournament due to a non-COVID related medical issue.
The last-minute change has hardly rattled the mentally strong Phogat.
“I’m confident about my abilities and my training. I know that I can take on anyone. So definitely, it’s not something that shakes me up,” Phogat said.
“I wouldn’t want to underestimate my opponent. Yes, I’ve seen certain gaps but I don’t want to disrespect my opponent by calling her out in a public forum. I learned it well while I’m ready to fight Olsim, I wouldn’t want to speak much about her weaknesses. I think Jenelyn deserves the spot in the Grand Prix too.”
If Phogat can take care of business against Olsim, she will secure her spot in the final round to face the winner of the other semifinal matchup between #3-ranked atomweight Stamp Fairtex and Grand Prix alternate Julie Mezabarba.
There’s no doubt a tidal wave of pressure on Phogat to turn in another exceptional performance. But “The Indian Tigress” maintains that the pressure is something that just doesn’t faze her one bit.
“I’m usually untouched by pressure. I don’t allow myself to get overwhelmed or intimidated by pressure. I know that I am prepared and I follow the course of the game plan,” Phogat said.
“All I’m focused on is to wind up the match at the earliest. I want to wrap it up as soon as I can.”