While ONE Fighting Championship’s inaugural mixed martial arts fight night in Dubai has been toploaded with title bouts – four championship belts are set to be brawled over on August 29 – a welcome addition to the card is a match between female cage fighters Ana Julaton and Ann Osman.
Irina Mazepa was originally scheduled to face Julaton at ONE FC: Reign of Champions next month, but a training injury to the Russian has opened the door for some high-octane action between two Asian antagonists.
Julaton (1-0) is an American-Filipina flyweight who has the distinction of having stormed through the ranks to claim the Women’s IBA and WBO Super Bantamweight world boxing titles in just her sixth and seventh professional fights respectively.
The 34-year-old, based out of San Francisco, impressed famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach enough to allow her to join his stable of fighters, which includes Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao.
Nicknamed “the Hurricane” and possessing lightning quick striking skills, her boxing record stands at 13 wins, two by knockout, four losses and one draw.
Julaton is the holder of black belts in both Bok Fu Do, an aggressive Chinese martial art which translates as “System of the White Tiger”, and taekwondo. Her MMA debut at ONE FC: Rise of Heroes on May 2 in front of a raucous home crowd in Manila was a successful one, with a third-round stoppage victory against Egypt’s Aya Saeid Saber.
“MMA is demanding, yet very fun,” Julaton told the Post by email when asked about her transition from boxing.
“At the end of my fight in Manila, [StarSports presenter] Jason Chambers asked me if I would make MMA ‘Full time’ and I told him, the 20,000 people at the Mall of Asia Arena and the one billion viewers throughout the world that I wouldn’t be surprised if I took the leap.
“I love the martial arts and ONE FC is the ultimate stage to showcase how great of an overall fighter you are.”
The challenge of learning new techniques, especially those involved in groundwork, is something the Filipina pugilist appears to have taken in stride.
“I look forward to surprising [my opponents] with what I’m working on,” she said.
“Although I only have one MMA fight under my belt, spending over a decade in boxing and fighting at a world class level inspires me to try new things . . . and make it my own. My approach in MMA will be different than what some may expect.”
Julaton also noted that women’s MMA has “rivaled the men’s side in popularity the same way tennis has”, which she describes as a “great thing” for the sport.
“Innovators like [ONE FC CEO] Victor Cui understand the ‘business’ of combat sports. The women of MMA are on fire in 2014! By next year, don’t be surprised if ONE FC becomes No 1 in TV ratings as a sporting event in all of Asia.”
While boxing opportunities will continue to come for the Hurricane, including potential megafights in Asia through Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum, she keeps a sharp focus on her Dubai task.
“I plan on putting on my best, showcasing my skills, and bringing something new in the cage,” she said.
“My last fight was exciting as it was a toe-to-toe battle – I fought out of submission attempts, attacked with body slams, knees and elbows. For this fight, I expect to bring the same kind of excitement.”
Ann “Athena” Osman (0-1), meanwhile, told the Post she was “grateful and happy” for the August 29 call up.
“I have always been hungry to fight ever since my last fight and I am just looking forward to returning to ONE FC’s cage,” she said.
The Malaysian, who lost her previous ONE FC bout against Sherylin Lim of Singapore last October, is six years younger than Julaton and usually four and a half kilograms lighter.
“I have agreed to fight in the flyweight division for this upcoming fight in Dubai, which is a weight class heavier than my usual weight division of strawweight. Nonetheless, I took up the challenge and I am ready to win this fight.”
Osman visited Cambodia earlier this month to join the fight against sex trafficking, meeting with girls at local NGO Agape International Missions and conducting a self-defence seminar with her trainer AJ Lias Mansour at NagaWorld.
She has since returned to her training camp at Borneo Tribal Squad gym in Sabah, eastern Malaysia.
The organisation’s new incentive scheme for top performers, initiated by Victor Cui at ONE FC’s first event in Taiwan on July 11, will again be in play in Dubai.
“It takes an exciting and amazing show for the fighters to win the ONE Warrior Bonus of $50,000 and I can just tell you that I won’t be delivering anything less than that. Be ready for it,” Osman added.