Malaysia’s first professional female mixed martial artist Ann Osman is blazing a trail for women pursuing the sport of competitive fighting. Only 27 years of age, bubbly Ann has captured the hearts of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) audiences in Asia with her indomitable spirit and become an inspiration to women everywhere. Ann opens up to Travel 3Sixty° about the sacrifices she’s had to make in pursuit of her dream.
Compiled By: Chitra Santhinathan Images: One Fighting Championship
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE UP MARTIAL ARTS?
I have always been the sporty and outdoorsy type and a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I discovered muay Thai and MMA when I joined a local gym a few years ago. Initially, I joined the training sessions just for fun, but before I knew it, I was training with The Borneo Tribal Squad and competing in amateur fights!
WHY WERE YOU DRAWN TO MIXED MARTIAL ARTS?
Mixed Martial Arts is a combination of martial art disciplines including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, karate and judo. I was drawn to it because of the mix of techniques; MMA combines striking, sparring and grappling, which makes it really exciting as I get to learn a multitude of skills from different disciplines.
IS MMA AN ART OR SPORT?
I would say both. Art, because of the techniques derived from different martial art disciplines, and sport, because it requires athleticism, discipline and stamina.
HAVE YOU HAD TO MAKE SACRIFICES IN PURSUIT OF YOUR DREAM?
Of course, I’ve had to make sacrifices, especially when I was preparing to turn pro while holding down a fulltime job. There is only so much time in a day and I’ve had to juggle both work and training. When I’m getting ready for a competition, I rarely get to spend as much time as I’d like with my family and friends. No partying or late nights, and I maintain a strict diet – which is pretty hard with all the amazing food we have in Malaysia!
DID YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP AT ANY POINT?
When I was preparing for my professional debut in ONE FC (One Fighting Championship™), I felt as if it was my biggest test – not only had I just started a new job, I had to balance my career with a physically demanding daily training regimen. It meant waking up early and fitting in training sessions before work, during my lunch break and after work as well. It was really tough and there were times when I questioned what I had gotten myself into, but I refused to give up. My family, friends and my passion – the fire in my heart that really drove me forward – motivated me to stay in the game.
DESCRIBE YOUR DAILY TRAINING ROUTINE.
Usually, I start my day with a run and some strength training and that’s just before I go in to work. If I can, I sometimes fit in a quick training session during my lunch break, and end my day with another three to four hour-long training session that focuses on improving my technique. That’s about five to seven hours of training a day, and that’s only during weekdays!
ARE YOU ON ANY SPECIAL DIET WHEN IN TRAINING?
I eat sensibly, but in preparation for a fight, I reduce carbs and up my intake of lean meat and vegetables. The focus is eating ‘clean’ – avoiding sugar and processed foods, and eating foods that are as natural and fresh as possible. A diet of salads, lean meat, green tea and black coffee helps power me through training sessions.
HAS FIGHTING COMPETITIVELY MADE YOU ANY LESS FEMININE?
Fighting hasn’t turned me into a tomboy at all. In fact, I love dressing up, and you’d usually find me in dresses and high heels when I’m not training or fighting. Oh, and I love my lipstick and nail polish too!
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A ROLE MODEL FOR OTHER YOUNG WOMEN?
Role model is such a big term! It’s an honour to be able to inspire other women to take up martial arts and MMA and possibly compete professionally. I hope I can inspire young women to believe in themselves because anything is possible when you believe you can do it.
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE ARE SO FEW FEMALE CONTENDERS IN THE MMA IN ASIA?
Many martial arts have roots in Asia, and there are actually plenty of women who train in different disciplines. However, I think the idea of women competing in MMA is still a bit new. I’m honoured to be the first Malaysian woman to go pro in ONE FC and I hope that I’ve kicked the door open for other women to follow.
ARE YOU TREATED AS AN EQUAL BY YOUR MALE COUNTERPARTS?
My teammates and coaches are mostly male and they’ve given me nothing but their unending support. Thus far, my gender has never been an issue and it’s heartening to know that many male fighters out there have accepted female presence in the cage.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT FIGHTING AS A SPORT?
It has to be the misconception that fighting is a ‘blood sport’ and not a sport that can be considered a professional career. In reality, fighting as a sport involves much skill, technique and strategy.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A BIG FIGHT?
I step up my training routine weeks before a major fight and prepare myself mentally and physically to ensure I’m on top of my game. It pays to be focused and mentally present during the fight as there is a rush of adrenaline and I cannot let that and a stadium full of people distract me.
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE CAGE?
Before walking out, I say a little prayer and keep replaying my coaches’ advice and game plan for the fight. But, as soon as I step into the cage, I am purely determined on keeping calm and staying focused.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TAKE A BLOW?
Getting hit can hurt pretty badly, but all of us fighters are trained in defence as well. We learn to take a punch, as well as to try to duck and protect ourselves. Before a fight, I do a lot of strength training which helps too.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?
I hope to advance further in MMA; hopefully with more female fighters, we’ll have some title fights. I’d love to get a belt as well! Also, I plan to start my own business – I have so many ideas, dreams and goals, I think you’ll have to check back with me in five years!
Cage name: Athena
ONE Fighting Championship™ presents ONE FC: WAR OF NATIONS, which returns to Malaysia this month and will feature among others, the hotly anticipated rematch between Ann Osman and Singaporean Sherilyn Lim. Catch the action live at Stadium Negara, Kuala Lumpur on March 14. For more updates on ONE Fighting Championship™, visit www.onefc.com