Ritu Phogat is booked for the ONE Championship atomweight Grand Prix. But the Indian has been handed a risky looking tune up bout against the unranked Bi Nguyen at ONE: ‘Dangal’.

Should she lose the fight, or even pick up an injury that prevents her competing on May 28th, Phogat will surely lose her spot in the prestigious tournament. So it is understandable that the 27 year old sees this as a ‘must win’ fight,

“I’m not at all overconfident, but yes, I’m fully confident that I’ll win this match. Losing is not an option for me.”

Perfect performance

She is coming off a first round stoppage win over Jomary Torres at ONE: ‘Big Bang’ and Phogat was pleased with that 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,” she recalls.

Torres was the most experienced fighter Phogat has faced so far in her MMA career and the undefeated Indian was happy to get the win,

“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.”

Superior skillset 

Nguyen brings a similar level of experience to Torres but has faced a much higher level of opposition than the Filipina which Phogat acknowledges,

“Bi’s stand-up game is very strong. Her mixed martial arts career has been better, too. She has tons of experience. She had the chance to fight with top-five (opponents) but I have put in lots of hard work,” she said.

Phogat comes from a family of famous Indian wrestlers and she and the movie Dangal was based on the life story of her and her sisters. It is no secret where her strengths lie and she wants to outwrestle Nguyen,

“I’ll say wrestling is going to prove mightier than striking. You will all get to see how a wrestler turns superior on a striker. You will see improvement in my striking.”

Risky assignment

The two are close outside of the cage and Phogat says Nguyen has helped her with some personal grooming at previous ONE Championship shows,

“Bi is a wonderful human being and a friend. She braided my hair before my last fight, too.”

With a Grand Prix bout quarter finals booked less than a month after this fight, which is being broadcast on May 15th, it has the feel of a tune up bout for Phogat. Nguyen represents a risky assignment but the Indian says she was happy to accept it,

“I’m really excited about this match. I want to kick-start my 2021 with a win.”

No regrets

Her ONE Championship career is a work in progress as she only began training MMA in 2019. Phogat has made a successful start and says she continues to improve,

“My record is 4-0 so far, and I wish to continue this trend. I’ve done plenty of hard work this year, so I want to show something new in my next fight. I’m eager to show my improved skills to my fans.”

While this fight is not part of the Grand Prix a place in the quarter finals will surely be on the line. Should Nguyen defeat Phogat she could surely steal her spot in the tournament.

Phogat is well aware of these stakes and is determined to win and keep her Grand Prix dream alive,

“To fulfill my dream of winning the Grand Prix it is very important to defeat Bi (but) I try to give 110% inside the ring so that when I step out I don’t have any regrets.”