After a troubling year for practically everyone in the world, the turn of the new year represents rekindled hope. Despite the circumstances, ONE Championship Women’s Atomweight contender and rising star Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat had a respectable past 12 months. She experienced growing success in her budding mixed martial arts career.

The Indian wrestling champion is also looking forward to an even better outcome in 2021. “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,” Phogat told ONE Championship in a recent interview.

Phogat recorded three victories last year, with each performance better than the next. “The year 2020 was really good for me. I fought three back-to-back matches, and I think I improved in all of them,” she added.

“My first match of 2020 went on for three rounds, my second match for two rounds, and just recently, my last match was over in the first round, so I think it was a good improvement. Last year taught me a lot, and I am feeling good about it. It was a great year for me. I keep wondering that if there was no lockdown, I could have fought one more time. Regardless, it was a successful year for me,” she further asserted.

With different countries imposing varying levels of border restrictions and community quarantine, it has been not easy to travel. While Phogat initially planned on returning to India, to spend quality time with her family last year, those plans were put on hold. Instead, “The Indian Tigress” ultimately decided to remain in Singapore, where she is currently based, to continue her Evolve MMA training, unhampered.

Still, Phogat wishes she could finally return home in 2021 and spend some time with the people closest to her. “Living in a foreign country away from my family and during the lockdown was really challenging for me. It was tougher than facing any opponent. I tried to be mentally strong to fight this,” she reckoned.

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“The biggest thing that I missed was my sister’s wedding. I had made lots of plans for her wedding, but unfortunately, I could not attend her big day. As soon as things are back to normal, I would like to go back to India to visit my family,” she added.

There is no doubt Phogat is one of the fastest rising talents in Asian mixed martial arts. With a tremendous wrestling pedigree, she’s the hope of an entire nation craving its first mixed martial arts world champion.

Phogat continues to work hard to hone her skills and is looking forward to a tremendous year. Among her goals include being named one of eight participants in the highly-anticipated ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix tournament. The winner of the said tournament will earn the right to face reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, Angela Lee, once she is fit to compete following her first child’s birth.

“My goal for 2021 is to be part of the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix. When [the matchmakers] announce the eight names for the tournament, I hope my name is among them,” said Phogat.

Phogat is motivated more than ever to keep in her winning ways. She wants to send a message to the competition with her every performance in the Circle.

“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 [perfect] record is never broken. Fans call me by the name of ‘The Indian Tigress.’ I would like to say that the tigress has arrived and the Atomweight division needs to be wary of me,” she concluded.