It was a shocking move when in February this year Ritu Phogat announced retirement from her promising career in wrestling. She had stated earlier that she wanted to join Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the entire fraternity, including the wrestling federation, was stunned by her decision. Ritu emerged as a strong medal contender in the 48kg category at Tokyo 2020, but her passion led her to a different direction. Gold medallist at the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship, Ritu is now making her MMA debut against South Korea’s Kim Nam-hee at One Championship’s Age of Dragons event in Beijing on Saturday.

Announcing the decision on Twitter, Ritu, who started wrestling aged eight, had posted:

The 25-year-old is the third of the famous Phogat sistersGeeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangita. Daughter of Dangal fame wrestling coach Mahavir Phogat, Ritu has made her choice in shifting to the Singapore-based MMA organisation Evolve MMA, which is one of Asia’s most decorated fight teams.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ritu switched to the combat sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in February. She will make her MMA debut at One Championship’s Age of Dragons event in Beijing on Saturday
  • Ritu, who was a strong medal contender in the 48kg category at Tokyo 2020, says she never gave much thought to qualifying for the Olympics
  • Ritu has shifted to the Singapore-based MMA organisation Evolve MMA, which is one of Asia’s most decorated fight teams

“It never crossed my mind,” Ritu told Reuters. “I always wanted to do something different. Script my own journey on the international stage.”

“My natural style makes it much easier to control all the takedowns … I hope I can use that to my advantage,” she said.

“I want to win a World Championship belt for India. I want to be the first in mixed martial arts to win that for my country,” she added

Also Read: Haryana’s Sportswomen fight marriage norms to prep for Olympics

Goodbye Wrestling

In 2017, Ritu had won a silver medal in the 48kg category at the World U-23 Senior Wrestling Championship in Poland. She was quoted saying, “I am really excited to begin my new journey. The reason I picked MMA is because I want to be the first Indian to become MMA world champion,” TOI reported.

“I have been following MMA for a while and I was very impressed by the sport. I have always wondered why there are no Indians in this sport,” she added.

When asked what had prompted her to take up MMA, the grappler replied, “Everyone in our family is a wrestler. People have expectations since I’m Geeta and Babita’s sister. I want to fulfil their expectations and hopes, not on the mat but inside a cage.”

Ritu further claimed, “Wrestling is my first love. Of course, I am going to miss it, but I am different from my sisters. I just can’t wait to get started.”

Back home in Haryana’s Balali village, her family is very excited about her choices. “It is not an overnight decision. Growing up, she was a big fan of MMA. One day she told me that she wants to try her hand at MMA,” her father Mahavir Phogat said.

Also Read: Years After String of Feats, Wrestler Family Fights For Their Due

Feature Image Credit: MensXP.com

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