ONE Championship female atomweight talent and Indian mixed martial arts rising star Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat has been selected as one of eight participants in the highly-anticipated ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix, set to commence in Q2 of 2021.
Fellow Indian mixed martial artist, heavyweight phenom Arjan “Singh” Bhullar, is all praises for Phogat after learning she had been selected for the high-profile women’s tournament.
“I’m very excited Ritu [Phogat] was selected for the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix, and everyone else that’s in the tournament. I think it’s going to be a tremendous show of skill. Everyone has their skill sets that they’re bringing to the table. It’s going to be some great fights,” said Bhullar.
Phogat joins #1-ranked contender Denice Zamboanga, #2-ranked Meng Bo, #5-ranked Stamp Fairtex, undefeated Japanese star Itsuki Hirata, South Korean veteran Seo Hee Ham, Alyona Rassohyna, and Alyse Anderson.
The winner of the tournament will go on to face reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee, who is expected to be ready to compete by November after giving birth to her first child early this year.
Bhullar has assessed Phogat’s competition, and firmly believes she has the tools necessary to emerge the winner of the tournament, and snatch the world title from Lee soon after.
“Looking at everybody, no one has the skill set that Ritu does. She is a world-class wrestler, and there’s no one else in those eight who measures up in that regard. That is something she definitely has to lean on to separate herself from everybody else, in order to get the wins and advance,” said Bhullar.
“I think she can win this thing. I really do. I think she has shown a good, well-rounded skill set in her last fight. Every time, she improves. In a tournament like this, she’s used to come from amateur wrestling, working her way through a bracket and getting through a semifinals, a finals, etcetera. I think it’s going to serve her great as she has been in tournaments her whole life.”
“Each fight, she improves and shows something new. That consistency of the fights is going to really serve her. As long as she doesn’t forget who she is and what got her here, stick with that, that will be the difference maker,” Bhullar added.
Bhullar, a Commonwealth Games 2010 gold medallist who traces his roots to Billi Bhullar village in the Jalandhar district of the North Indian state of Punjab, is pencilled in to face Filipino-American mixed martial arts icon Brandon “The Truth” Vera for the ONE Heavyweight World Championship sometime this year.
Both men are already deep in training. The fight has yet to be officially announced, however, although many fans and observers feel it is only a matter of time.
It’s completely within the realm of possibility that, by the end of the year, both Bhullar and Phogat are ONE World Champions.
“It would be absolutely massive if both of us had world titles this year. It’s very possible. My opportunity is up first, and soon thereafter will be hers. But it would be huge for India, and obviously huge for us on a personal note — huge for the sport, huge for the company. It will really plant a flag that MMA has truly arrived in India among Indian MMA fans,” said Bhullar.
“We both have a tremendous opportunity. I’ll make sure to get mine done first, and hopefully give Ritu a little more inspiration, that it’s definitely possible, maybe give her a little more pressure that she has to get it done — the King and Queen of Indian MMA.”
The undefeated Phogat is currently deep in preparation for her biggest undertaking yet. Bracketing for the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix is expected to be finalized and announced soon.
Phogat will also appear on upcoming reality television series “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition,” scheduled to premiere on 18 March on AXN, the show’s official Asian broadcast partner, followed by a global launch in June across broadcast and streaming platforms. She joins athletes such as MMA legends Georges St-Pierre and Renzo Gracie as guest stars on the show.