MMA legend backs Ritu to win atomweight grand prix final

Former two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion Conor McGregor, the biggest star in mixed martial arts (MMA) history, is backing "Indian Tigress" Ritu Phogat (left) to win next month's ONE Championship atomweight grand prix final.

The Irishman, after wishing his Indian supporters "Happy Deepavali" last Friday, commented about Ritu's unanimous decision victory over the Philippines' Jenelyn Olsim at the ONE: NextGen fight in Singapore on Oct 29.

"Rooting for the Indians to make a stamp in this game soon," McGregor wrote. "Very possibly the most respectful and caring nationality I've ever met in my life, the Indians. Let's go India."

Ritu's win over Olsim earned her a fight with Thailand's striking specialist Stamp Fairtex on Dec 3.

The winner of that bout will be crowned the ONE atomweight grand prix champion and is expected to challenge atomweight queen Angela Lee for her title in the new year.

Lee is set for a long-awaited return to action after the birth of her first child in April.

The 27-year-old Ritu thanked McGregor for his warm words and invited him to visit India - a country he evidently holds in high regard.

"Thanks so much @TheNotoriousMMA for your wonderful words," Ritu wrote. "This means a lot to me. I'll try and win the final for my country. Hope we meet soon one day, please come to India, you will have the best time of your life."

Indian-Canadian Arjan Bhullar, who holds the ONE heavyweight title, also greeted McGregor.

"I'm here, the stamp's been made," Bhullar wrote on Twitter, before inviting McGregor to train at the American Kickboxing Academy in southern California.

The 35-year-old became the first India-origin champion in a major MMA championship in April by defeating long-time champion Brandon Vera via a second-round TKO.

Bhullar has backed Ritu to join him at the top and become "the queen of Indian MMA" by winning the ONE Championship atomweight grand prix.

"Everyone knows she's tough," he said. "The whole Phogat family tree is tough. She proved that in her last fight.

"She also proved her ability to handle adversity, adjust her skill set to find a way to win. I think those are intangibles you can't learn, and she has that.

"In terms of her skill set, she's still getting refined, working on her striking obviously, and trying to mesh that with her grappling is gonna be key for her to see how deep she goes into this tournament.

"And I hope we get ourselves a queen of Indian MMA, because she'd be fantastic for the sport and a great ambassador for the country.

"She's at (Singapore-based) Evolve (MMA academy), one of the top teams in the world. I think she's got the right people around her to get her skill set where it needs to be to win this thing."

Indo-Asian News Service

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