Ana Julaton and her MMA journey

Nissi Icasiano
From boxing to mixed martial arts, Ana 'The Hurricane' Julaton says she will not have trouble transitioning because of early exposure to martial arts

NOT JUST A PUNCHER. Ana Julaton practices kicks as she prepares for her ONE FC debut. Photo from AnaJulaton.com

MANILA, Philippines – Over the past six years, women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) rose from relative obscurity to noticeable heights that many could not fathom in such a short span of time.

The once male-dominated league has been infiltrated by women equipped with equal prowess to engage in high-testosterone action, at times even with more gusto than their male counterparts.

2013 was a monumental moment for Eve’s spawns. After years of being told that they “just weren’t good enough” and that there “wasn’t enough girls to form a legitimate bracket”, women finally graced the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) renowned Octagon and blew everyone‘s mind in the process.

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey crashed barriers as her extraordinary blend of an Olympic-level judo background and an enthusiasm for snapping arms enthralled fans across the planet.

The company’s decision to add a women’s division served as a sparkplug for the entire scene to give suitable credence to the female class.

Aside from the UFC, numerous promotions followed suit. Today, it is no longer strange to see a fight card headlined by female fighters. The precedent also paved the way to having a viable all-female MMA organization in Invicta Fighting Championship.

On October 18, 2013, ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) held its second women’s bout in its home-base of Singapore as Sherilyn Lim locked horns with Ann Osman.

Both ladies stood up and exchanged heavy leathers to put the crowd into raucous frenzy. At the end, Lim walked away with the split-decision victory.

Due to the stellar outcome of their marquee match-up, the two were slated to face each other again at ONE FC: War of Nations last March 14. Unfortunately, the highly-anticipated rematch was cancelled when Lim tipped the scales three kilograms over the contracted weight limit, which equates to nearly seven pounds more than the 115-pound border.

The last-minute pullout of the much-anticipated rematch irked combat hooligans as they vented their disappointment during the broadcast of ONE FC: War of Nations. But an unexpected tease on social media caught everyone’s attention and eventually came into fruition two weeks later.

After series of speculation and buzz, former boxing world champion Ana Julaton signed an exclusive contract with ONE FC and is set to make her MMA debut against a yet-to-be-known opponent at ONE FC: Rise of Heroes in Manila on May 2.

Julaton started to make headlines in September 2009 when she became the first Filipina world champion in boxing, claiming the vacant IBA super featherweight strap against Kelsey Jeffries.

“The Hurricane” doubled her feat by capturing the inaugural WBO female super bantamweight belt when she closely outpointed Maria Elena Villalobos in June 2010.

She went on to successfully defend the 122-pound trinket three times before dropping it to Yesica Patricia Marcos in March 2012.

Since her disappointing setback to Marcos, Julaton won three of her four outings, thumping the likes of Yolanda Segura, Abigail Ramos and Perla Hernandez.

The influence of martial arts

Despite holding a professional boxing record of 13-4-1 with 2 KOs, Julaton had no qualms following the footsteps of 18-time and three-division boxing queen Holly Holmes in shifting to MMA.

According to the 5-foot-5 slugger who was born and raised in San Francisco, California, she is no stranger to the realm of martial arts as she practiced taekwondo to kenpo karate at an early age.

“I began taekwondo at 10 years old and won several awards, including gold medals in the Junior Olympics at 16 years old. My brother and I went to South Korea to train there once with some of their best. I began kenpo karate shortly after that, and during that time, it was my sensei who got me into boxing,” she recalled.

Julaton admitted the sport’s electrifying element was the major factor on her decision to make the jump from boxing to MMA.

“What makes MMA so exciting are the many ways to defeat your opponent. The options are limitless and that’s what makes the sport so interesting,” she said.

The 33-year-old puncher revealed  she has been preparing her transition to MMA for a long time and had been talking to ONE FC chief Victor Cui on numerous occasions.

“Victor has been talking to me for two years about MMA. He has always made me feel welcomed and respected. He respects me not only as a fighter but as a human being,” she shared.

For her first ONE FC appearance, she is working with Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze, the trainer of renowned women’s MMA fighter Gina Carano.

“When I was in the Bay Area studying kenpo karate, I trained with few MMA practitioners. I also did some ground game at a school near the University of Berkeley California. Right now, I am training with Gina Carano’s coach. We do drills together even though he is much bigger than me when we grapple. But I feel like it’s great for training,” she asserted.

GROUND GAME. Ana Julaton fiercely holds down her practice partner. Photo from AnaJulaton.com

Although she is more accessible to prominent promotions in the United States, Julaton disclosed that ONE FC became the more appealing product due to its implementation of dynamic fight rules.

Asia’s largest MMA organization uses the international rule-set which blends a combination of best combat practices from all over the globe, permitting soccer kicks, stomps to the body and legs, and knee-strikes to a standing or grounded opponent.

In the event that a bout goes the distance, it will go to a judges’ decision as the three cageside officials will score the bout in its entirety, not round-by-round.

“I love ONE FC because they have authentic rules. Their scoring system of how a fight is judged is how it should be. When you are in a battle, the fight has an entire story and you can’t individualize what happens round per round. There is an overall sense of what is happening in the fight,” Julaton stressed.

Julaton confirmed that her first MMA scuffle will be contested at the flyweight division, which has a weight limit of 125 pounds.

“I am honored that they chose me to begin their inaugural female flyweight division in 2014. It’s my responsibility to continue to perform well, so many girls growing up wanting to compete in MMA may have the same opportunities in the future,” she expressed.

No turning back from boxing

Julaton pointed out that in spite of her choice to be a ONE FC competitor, she is not turning her back on the sport that catapulted her to the pinnacle of success.

Promoted as a boxer by Allan Tremblay of Orion Sports Management in Canada, she has been booked to fight on May 29 and is hoping to challenge for a world title again this year.

HURRICANE BLOWS THROUGH. Former boxing champion Ana Julaton has already made her name in boxing. Now she takes her skills to the octagon. Photo from Julaton's Facebook

“I am not done with boxing. Both Victor Cui and Allan Tremblay have an agreement that I am allowed to compete in both sports which is an amazing opportunity and responsibility for me,” Julaton said.

Presently, Julaton has her sights firmly set on her very first MMA match amidst 20,000 Filipinos inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

“My focus is on making my MMA debut for ONE FC and performing my best in front of my countrymen. I will do my best and hope to make the people happy with my performance,” she lauded.

Furthermore, she aspires to be instrumental in breaking down the wall of differing contention between boxing and MMA.

“I love both sports, and if you are a fan of combat sports, then you don’t have to choose one over the other. I would love to help be a part of promoting both sports and the beauty of the fighting arts, so that more people will want to share the experience I’ve been fortunate enough to have been around all my life,” Julaton ended. – Rappler.com

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