Earlier this month Chatri Sityodtong announced an atomweight Grand Prix and reigning Rizin 108lbs champion Ham Seo Hee will be one of the participants. Ritu Phogat is also hoping to earn a spot as one of the eight fighters competing in the tournament.

The Indian will be in action tomorrow night. She faces Nou Srey Pov at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’ and Phogat already has her sights set on a spot in the tournament,

“My target is to get selected as one of the eight contenders for the ONE atomweight Grand Prix,” she said.

She believes a win over the Cambodian could be enough to earn her a place in the quarter finals,

“This (a win over Pov) would help me in reaching my goal. I just want to say that I want to win this match and take one step toward my goal.”

Clash of styles

Her opponent comes from a background in Kun Khmer. With Phogat being famous for her exploits in the wrestling world it has been billed as a clash of styles.

But the 26 year old says she wants to utilize her striking and finish the fight on the feet,

“I want to win this match in the first round by knockout. I want to showcase my striking instead of my ground game this time.”

Phogat says she worked hard to improve her striking during lockdown in Singapore,

“Lockdown was really tough for me personally, as I was away from my family in a different country.  I ordered a boxing bag online for my home (and) my coach, Siyar Bahadurzada, helped me a lot to correct my technique. I would send him videos, and he would tell me if I was doing it right or not.”

New skills

Having spent so much time working on her weaknesses Phogat hopes to showcase her new skills at the Singapore Indoor Stadium this week,

“I’ve worked hard on my striking during the lockdown (and) I want to win this match by knockout.”

Phogat and Pov have both fought twice for ONE Championship. They both signed for the promotion on the basis of their experience and credentials in other sports.

The Indian has a lot of respect for her opponent,

“She has won lots of matches in her career and I respect her for that. Our match is going to be amazing. I am sure that she will give me a tough match (but) I am ready for it.”

Biggest weakness

While Phogat is more confident in her striking she knows that a few weeks spent hitting the bag at home is no substitute for a lifetime of competitive experience. She began wrestling at the age of eight and won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2016.

So don’t be surprised if Phogat decides to play to her strengths as she goes in search of a third straight ONE Championship win,

“I think her biggest weakness is her ground game, which is my strength. She has a strong striking game and my coach and my team have made a game plan to counter it.”

High stakes

We won’t know until Friday whether that game plan really involves utilizing those new found striking skills. Phogat has some of the best wrestling in the division and it would be no surprise if she decided to use it.

With the atomweight Grand Prix set to kick off in January the stakes are high and Phogat will be hoping to secure her spot in the tournament with a win at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’.