Ritu Phogat, in a shocking move on Monday, announced retirement from her promising career in wrestling. She stated that she wants to join Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The entire fraternity, including the wrestling federation, is stunned by her decision.
The 24-year-old is the third of the famous Phogat sisters — Geeta, 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.
An elated Ritu took to Twitter to announce the new journey:
Its time for a new journey a new challenge a new beginning but the goal will remain the same – to represent my country and win championships for my country. Things won't be so easy but when the going gets tough the tough gets going. #mma #mmafighter #mmatraining #one #Onedream pic.twitter.com/OgJWsGz8wP
— Ritu phogat (@PhogatRitu) February 26, 2019
In 2017, Ritu had won a silver medal in the 48kg category at the World U-23 Senior Wrestling Championship in Poland. The gold medallist at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in 2016, 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.
The Wrestling Federation of India said Ritu kept them “in the dark” by claiming she was injured. “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 fulfill 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.”
Interestingly, Ritu’s decision to pursue MMA means a decline in India’s medal hope for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Commenting on Ritu’s decision, WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told TOI, “It is quite shocking, but if she has decided to join MMA, then it will be curtains for her amateur career. Trust me, I can’t believe this, Ritu is one of the most promising wrestlers in India. I hope she knows the consequences as she won’t be able to represent India.”
Earlier this month, Ritu had pulled out of the senior women’s national wrestling camp, which is underway in Lucknow. She claimed that the injury is bad, hence, the decision. “She should have told us. She had called up last week to inform she is injured. She instead wanted her younger sister Sangita to represent the country in her category. We have invested so much in Ritu. It is obviously a big loss for us,” added Tomar.
Back home in Haryana’s Balali village, her family is very excited. “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,” said her father Mahavir Phogat.
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