‘The Indian Tigress’ Ritu Phogat to face Cambodian MMA Star NouSreyPov
The wrestler turned MMA (mixed martial art) fighter Ritu Phogat shares insights on the build-up to the big day, with her eyes, fixed on nothing but glory to the country as she prepares to take on her rival on 30th October in Singapore.
Q. How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your life? How have you managed training?
RP: Yes, my training has obviously been impacted. MMA is a new sport. So it has been a challenging transition. I am also living in a new country, Singapore, all by myself. So it has definitely been hard because the game is new and the country is new. Also, I don’t have my sisters around or my father to take advice from. However, during the lockdown when training was halted because wrestling and grappling are contact sports, the coaches helped me by making training videos. But everything has slowly become better now because the lockdown has eased considerably in Singapore and now I am working out and training at the gym. I have been working on improving my striking technique as I want to show the world that we Indians are ‘all-rounders,’ on-field or off-field!
Q. The Salman Khan movie Sultan is also about a wrestler becoming an MMA champion, do you relate to the film?
RP: I have actually not watched the film. MMA is still not mainstream in India and it’s disheartening that there aren’t many MMA champions in India when I know we have a surplus of talent. I want Indian athletes to understand the sheer scope of MMA and the popularity that MMA holds across the world.
Q. How are you keeping your morale up during such tough times?
RP: My motivation has always been my father and his words, he has always said to me – You have to sacrifice to win something. My sisters have always been my inspiration. I have always watched them wrestle and I have tried to emulate them. I have to win the world championship belt.
Q. How challenging will it be to fight in an empty arena?
Yes, no audience in the stadium will definitely feel different as crowds can provide motivation and cheer. But when I step into the ring, my sole focus is my opponent. Besides, an empty stadium means that you can hear nothing but your coach, guiding you through the match.
Q. What will your strategy be while playing against your opponent NouSreyPov?
She is an experienced MMA champion and it will be a tough and interesting fight between the two of us. I am ready to give it my best! And as far as strategies are concerned, I would want each one of you to tune in and watch some of the strategies I deploy against the opponent.
Q. What should your mental state be like when in a fight?
RP: You have to be mentally strong, this is very important for athletes. This is why I meditate to keep my mind strong.
Q. You’re called ‘the female Khabib Nurmagomedov’ by Indian fans since you’re both a world-class wrestler and are undefeated. Have you seen him fight?
RP: Yes, I have been very motivated by him and I watch a lot of his videos. I like his fighting style a lot and I am inspired by him. I aspire to be like him someday.
Q. There is this one particular advice your father gives you for a match, what is that advice?
RP: My father always says to pack enough power in one punch so that the opponent is instantly knocked out and cannot get up at all.
Q. MMA is fast gaining popularity in India, what do you think is fuelling this?
RP: I think it is because the media is covering this more. Earlier, people didn’t really know about MMA, but with changing times, more and more people in India are getting to know about the sports in mixed martial arts but there is room for a lot more awareness.
Q. What is your message to Indians to stay fit during this lockdown?
RP: Out of 24 hours, I would advise everyone to take out just 30 mins and practice Yoga. Even doing household chores helps. Yoga and meditation are the best options.
Q. Apart from your sisters, which other sports personalities are your icons?
RP: Virat Kohli is really inspiring, I like watching his training videos. Also, as I said, Khabib is very inspirational for me.
Q. Dangal was based on your family’s story, if there is ever a biopic made on your life, which Bollywood actor would you choose to play your character?
RP: I think I would like to play myself in the film! Because no one knows my struggle and journey better than me.