Expect a different Ana Julaton at ONE: Spirit of Champions
MANILA, Philippines – For other fighters, a long lay-off may be a detriment. But for Ana Julaton, a one year break is exactly what she needed.
The Filipino-American former world boxing champion is keen to showcase the strides she has made as an MMA prizefighter in her return to the cage against Irina Mazepa at ONE FC's Manila event "Spirit of Champions" on Friday, December 11.
“My first 3 fights, anyone watching it, you can go ahead and just delete that image because that’s not me,” the 5-foot-5 Julaton declared Tuesday, December 8 during the media workouts at the KMA Fitness Gym in Makati.
“I feel like I was more of a boxer stepping into the cage (then) versus now I feel like I’m more an MMA fighter stepping into the cage. So watch it all you want, the first 3 fights – not happening this Friday.”
Julaton, 35, last fought in December 2014 at ONE: Warrior’s Way, where she outpointed Egyptian Walaa Abbas Mohamed Kamaly to improve her MMA record to 2-1. She has since been working hard on polishing her ground grame and at the same time shedding some of her old boxing tendencies.
(READ: Ana Julaton and her MMA journey)
“I think it’s probably for the better because I really got to focus,” Julaton assessed her one-year absence as beneficial to her. “You got to imagine, I’m used to going to a boxing gym. You understand the culture. You got your shoes on, you put on your gear, you spar. And then I had to change my whole environment.
“I’m going into a wrestling room with mats on the floor, mats against the wall. I’m going against athletes who understand grappling, who understand wrestling. It’s not like I’m going to kindergarten wrestling. It’s been crazy.”
Julaton will be fighting Mazepa in the flyweight division. The 5-foot-6 Mazepa, 32, is a newcomer to MMA with just one fight under her belt. Mazepa, however, may have the edge in momentum and confidence as the Russian knocked out Ann Osman – who stained Julaton’s MMA record via split decision victory in August 2014 – just last October.
“I feel like it (lay-off) was good so I can really understand. I think mentally the hardest thing was just – I mean I spent over 10 years in boxing and I learned to live and die with my fists. In MMA, you have to let that go. So your ego has to go down just a little bit,” she added.
Julaton has been training with wrestling gold medalist Ricky Lundell to complete her transition to the sport.
“He was patient enough to have me and my team understand what MMA means and kind of just let go of a lot of my boxing tendencies,” Julaton said. "It’s been a work in progress and I feel like everything happens for a reason. I feel like this year has been very productive and I feel like I’m ready.”
Inspired by Holly Holm
Julaton also admitted she was inspired by the success of another boxer turned MMA fighter Holly Holm, who shocked the world with an upset win over previously undefeated Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 last month.
“I’m very inspired by what Holly Holm did. A lot of the attention wouldn’t be happening for female fighters if it wasn’t for those two ladies Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. Thank you to them for just doing what they did,” Julaton said before explaining how she can replicate similar success in her own way.
“Boxing is huge in the Philippines and everyone understands it but there are different styles in boxing. Holly Holm has one style, I have one style, Freddie Roach has a style, Roger Mayweather has his own style.
“So I feel like when I get into the cage, my style won’t be like Holly Holm even though we both share boxing backgrounds. I do something a little bit different and I feel like that’s something that fits me the best.”
Julaton will battle inside the cage once again Friday before her home crowd, whom she has yet to disappoint as she is undefeated at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I just want to come out and show my Filipino roots,” she tried to articulate her own champion spirit.
“In boxing I had to be a road warrior. I’m so used to fighting a Mexican in Mexico, an Argentine in Argentina, a Canadian in Canada. It’s nice to be a Filipina fighting in the Philippines where you have people supporting you. The spirit of that, I feel like I have that essence.” – Rappler.com