A FIRST ROUND LOSS to Stamp Fairtex at ONE Championship's Bangkok event this month has left Puja Tomar (4-4 pro MMA) introspective about her performance, and cautious about the next step in her career.
The fight took place in Bangkok, where Puja, a heavy underdog taking on the reigning Kickboxing and Muay Thai champion who's undefeated in MMA, started off well, catching two of Stamp's front kicks and taking her down both times. But during the second takedown Puja unwittingly put herself in a vulnerable position that led to a first round TKO win for Stamp Fairtex.
Speaking about that bout, Puja rued the fact that she was not able to showcase her improved game come fight night,
"It wasn't my day. The fight didn't go the way I expected. I trained well this time... I wanted to take her down to establish control and apply ground-and-pound. But the last takedown I got went wrong; I let her take my back... She managed to hold my back and go to ground-and-pound. Once the punches started coming continuously I could defend but couldn't figure out a way to respond and improve my position. It was relentless."
Speaking about the lead up to the fight, Puja said the buzz on social media about this bout was on her mind,
"The training camp went well this time. But perhaps got myself mentally exhausted ahead of this fight, I took too much pressure upon myself for this fight. Whenever I opened social media I got tons of messages saying you have to win. There were lots of negative comments too. I don't think I should not have let the fight get to my head like this."
Asked why she actively looked for takedowns when all her previous losses in MMA had come via submission, she said,
"I trained well for this fight. Coach Muneer helped me a lot with my Brazilian Jiu Jiutsu. But the fight did not reflect the training I put in."
One of the moments that stood out from the fight was when Stamp Fairtex, firmly in control of Puja's back, almost sunk in a rear naked choke that Puja managed to fight off, indicating she has considerably improved her ground game in the last few months. Asked about that, she said,
"My coach had trained me well for the rear naked choke, he kept applying it on me and I got good at dealing with it. She got me in the chokehold but I kept defending it. She did get under my chin but I had her arms in my grip so it didn't get too bad... earlier I lost by submission because I didn't have any ground game but this time I had come prepared. I will regret this fight more than any other in my life; I could not show any of my training here."
After competing multiple times in the ONE Championship Atomweight division (52.2 kg, 115 lb), Puja feels she walks in with physical disadvantages compared to her opponents each time; one that will require a longer term plan to correct,
"I have been fighting in Atomweight but I always have to put on weight to compete here. But just short term weight increases for quick fights don't help me increase my strength. So I want to properly condition my body for this weight class and for that I need to take some time to get put on a proper camp. I'll also use that time to improve my BJJ."
While Puja has developed a bit of a reputation in ONE Championship as being a fighter who's game to take on anyone at any time, she feels after this loss it's time to take some time and weigh her next step instead of taking another short notice bout,
"It's a bit of a shock for me, and a major setback. I did not do well. So I won't be hurrying to return to action. I need some time to go back to the drawing board and improve myself. Only when I'm sure that I am ready, I'll take the next fight."
With the ONE Championship's Atomweight division steadily expanding, there's no doubt a new batch of hungry contenders might be available for Puja to take on by the time she returns to action later this year.