Ritu Phogat is undefeated in her MMA career. The Indian won four fights in just over a year but, while she is currently riding the crest of a wave, greater challenges await.

Phogat is almost guaranteed to be one of the eight fighters selected for the ONE Championship atomweight Grand Prix and she expects to make a bit step up in terms of opposition this year,

“I know that I will be against the top-level fighters in 2021. I want to get ready for it by working on my striking and ground game. Whenever I face these top-level athletes, I want to be ready.”

Tough challenge

In her most recent fight Phogat stopped Jomary Torres in the opening round at ONE: ‘Big Bang’. She was delighted with her performance,

“I really wanted to end the match with perfection. I started with striking, but once she started attacking me, it got easier for me to go for a takedown. I controlled the match to perfection and finished the contest.”

Torres was the most experienced fighter Phogat has faced so far and she was pleased to be able to implement the game plan,

“It was a really tough challenge because she is a great fighter, but she had no chance. Maybe it was just my day. I had worked hard for this, and I trusted my effort. I am happy that I managed to implement that.”

Big ambition

Her ambition for 2021 is simple but it won’t be straightforward. She wants to win the atomweight Grand Prix,

“My goal for 2021 is to be part of the atomweight Grand Prix. I hope my name is among the eight names for the tournament.”

But she is not sitting around waiting for the call. Phogat has been working hard with the team at Evolve MMA to ensure she is capable of winning the tournament,

“My coach and I are working hard every day, and I am steadily improving my skills. I’ll be taking part in every match to remain undefeated, and I wish that my (undefeated) record is never broken.”

Constant improvement

With former Rizin 108lbs champion Seo Hee Ham set to compete in the tournament that won’t be easy. But Phogat is happy with the rate she is improving,

“The year 2020 was really good for me. I fought three back-to-back matches, and I think I improved in all of them. My first match went three rounds, my second match two rounds, and my last match was over in the first round, so I think it was a good improvement.”

Phogat says that spending time away from her family was tough. She missed her sister’s wedding because it was impossible to travel from Singapore to India at that time.

While it was a successful year in terms of her MMA career it was also a challenging time for Phogat. But she feels the experience has only made her stronger,

“The year 2020 taught me that we have to be mentally strong. Whatever the circumstances may be, we should not lose hope and we should never back down.”

Breakout year

Regardless of that, there are very few fighters who managed to win three times in 2020. It was a breakout year for Phogat and one that she will never forget,

“Last year taught me a lot, and I am feeling good about it. It was a great year for me.”

If she is one of the fighters selected for the atomweight Grand Prix then 2021 could be a busy year too, and remaining undefeated will be a much tougher task. But Phogat is well prepared and believes she can go all the way and actually win the tournament.