Bi Nguyen to Ritu Phogat: “I’m nobody’s stepping stone”

Bi Nguyen
Image via ONE Championship

ONE Championship women’s atomweight star Bi Nguyen is all fired up and motivated ahead of her showdown with Indian wrestling champion Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat.

Nguyen and Phogat lock horns at the tape-delayed ONE: DANGAL, a tape-delayed event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore that airs on Saturday, 15 May,  just weeks before Phogat is scheduled to enter action against No. 2-ranked atomweight contender Meng Bo.

Phogat is one of eight of the top atomweights in ONE Championship who will compete in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix at ONE: EMPOWER on 28 May. Nguyen can’t help but feel disrespected, in what she believes is being used as a tune-up fight for Phogat ahead of the high profile tournament.

“I don’t like anything about this matchup, to be honest with you,” Bi Nguyen said. “I’m pretty upset. I have a chip on my shoulder because of the timing, because of the opponent. I think that having me as a warmup fight for her before the Grand Prix is an insult to me.”

“If you’re asking me personally how I feel, I think I’m nobody’s warmup fight,” Nguyen added. “I’m nobody’s stepping stone. If you’re going to look for a warmup fight for somebody going into the Grand Prix, it shouldn’t have been me, and I’m going to prove that. Yes, I think that she would have been smarter or her team would have been smarter to take somebody else as a warmup fight.”

Phogat comes from a famed wrestling family. Her father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, is a legendary coach having trained several of her family members and leading them to the highest levels of the sport, inspiring the 2016 hit movie “Dangal.”

A Commonwealth Wrestling Gold Medalist, Phogat is currently undefeated in her mixed martial arts career, with three out of her four wins coming by finish.

Nguyen has studied Phogat’s style, and has identified a few flaws that she believes she can take advantage of.

“I think that she still needs to work on the transitioning from the striking to the takedown,” Nguyen said. “It’s quite basic right now. She doesn’t have a lot of slick ways to get into the takedown. She just powers through them. She does have good chain wrestling, once she gets a hold of you. But to get from being far out to getting close to her transitioning, it’s not that great yet. And she hasn’t been hit by anybody like me.”

“With my movement and with my power, I don’t think she’s going to get to where she wants to be.”

ONE: DANGAL features a host of Indian martial arts stars, and aims to showcase the very best that India has to offer.

In the main event, Indian wrestling champion and former UFC contender Arjan Bhullar challenges Filipino-American superstar Brandon Vera for the ONE Heavyweight World Title. Other Indian athletes scheduled for action include Gurdarshan “Saint Lion’ Mangat and Roshan Mainam.

Nguyen is preparing for a ground war with Phogat, whose game plan she believes involves shooting for constant takedowns. However, the Vietnamese-American star says she will look to shock Phogat with her ground game, should the action hit the mat.

“I definitely think it must be to take me to the ground,” Nguyen said. “That’s what I’m anticipating, and if it’s not, that would be wonderful for me. But I would think she has a great team. She has a smart coach, so I would think a game plan against me would be to take me to the ground and take me to deep water, and not let me up.”

“The only ground you’ve seen from me in ONE has been impressive in my debut,” Nguyen added. “When I had some exchanges, I ended up in pretty dominant fashion on the ground. I think she’s in for a surprise on how strong my ground game is. I think I will frustrate her. I think I will hit her hard, she will shoot desperately, and I will defend it. I will catch her on the way in.”

Do you think Bi Nguyen will come out on top against Ritu Phogat at ONE: DANGAL?

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