Consider MMA fighters also for national sports awards, urges Ritu Phogat

Wrestler-turned-Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Ritu Phogat, daughter of famous wrestling coach Mahavir Singh Phogat, on Tuesday urged the Indian government to help in promoting MMA in the country and also suggested that the players of this game should also be "considered for sports awards like Arjuna".

"We also play for our nation… we also represent India," Ritu told IANS. "And I am not demanding anything here for myself, but it is for the youngsters who are opting for a career in this sport. Bollywood celebrities are following this sport. Some movies are also made.

"Government should promote and support it as it is now gaining popularity among the masses. Sports awards like Arjuna would definitely help us in a big way. There should be a proper recognised body (federation) of MMA in India like other sports have. We have a lot of talent in India, who are willing to join the sport. There should be a proper telecast of our bouts also so that people can watch it."

Ritu has stormed into the semi-finals of Atomic Weight Grand Prix of One Championship in Singapore. She defeated China's World No. 2 Meng Bo, who was on a seven-match undefeated streak. The 27-year-old MMA fighter expressed her delight over the "big win".

"Meng Bo is a really good fighter. She is the number 2 contender. She has more experience than me. But I have proved I am among the best. I used some wrestling moves in this fight and the combination of wrestling moves and MMA style is helping me in fights really well," Phogat said.

"I learned a lot and got a lot more experience in my last fight. I checked her (Meng Bo) videos, and trained accordingly. I am ready for whoever I have to face in the next round. I am ready for the next challenge."

Asked if she will return to wrestling, Ritu said, "right now, my only focus is MMA."

"I am not thinking about coming back to wrestling. I know my father wants us to win an Olympic medal. Sangeeta will be participating in World Wrestling Championships. She has made a good comeback. Also, my cousin Vinesh Phogat… she is also working hard. She was unlucky this time in Tokyo (Olympics) but hopefully will win a medal in 2024 Paris," Ritu added.

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