Female cage fighting sensation Ann “Athena” Osman will visit Cambodia this week to throw her support behind Agape International Missions (AIM), a local Christian NGO that is helping fight the ground war on sex trafficking in the Kingdom.
The 28-year-old Malaysian lost a split decision to Singaporean strawweight Sherilyn Lim in her debut mixed martial arts bout at ONE FC: Total Domination in October. The third round of the fight was nominated for “Round of the Year” at the 2013 Bloody Elbow WMMA awards.
Osman was slated to face Lim in a rematch on March 14 in Kuala Lumpur, but her opponent failed to make weight (52kg) and their fight was pulled from the card.
After hearing about the valiant efforts of AIM on CNN’s Freedom Project, Osman made a pledge to come over and meet some of the victims of child prostitution and offer her assistance in training up the organisation’s undercover “SWAT Team”, staffed by volunteers.
She will visit the AIM centre in Svay Pak village, Russey Keo district, on Thursday morning before heading to NagaWorld in the afternoon to conduct a demonstration of combat skills that the SWAT Team member can utilise in real situations.
Accompanying Osman on the trip will be her trainer and fellow Malaysian MMA star AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansour, who is founder of the Borneo Tribal Squad MMA & Fitness Factory in Sabah.
Post sports editor Dan Riley held a Q&A by email with Osman ahead of her arrival in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
Is this your first visit to Cambodia? What are you feelings towards the trip and what are you looking forward to?
Yes it is and I am very much excited to be going on this trip especially when it is for a good cause.
As much as I look forward to visiting Cambodia, I look forward most to meeting the girls [at AIM] and being there for them.
What do you know about Cambodia, in terms of history and places of interest?
I have some friends who had visited Cambodia and heard so many interesting stories. Cambodia is rich for its history and culture, and I am amazed by that alone. Among the places of interest I know about are Angkor Wat (which I am very keen to visit) and Ta Prohm in Siem Reap.
Do you know anything about Cambodian kickboxing?
ONE FC has signed some talented Cambodian fighters and they are known for their Kun Khmer, which is like kickboxing. I have learned that Kun Khmer is the national martial art for Cambodia.
Despite the amazing stories I learned about Cambodia, I have also heard of some sad ones too which I hope to hand some help to during my visit to Cambodia soon.
How has signing with ONE FC changed your life? Are there any sacrifices you have made to pursue a career in MMA?
A few months after signing with ONE FC, my life has changed in some ways, though I still go by my normal life as usual.
First and foremost, I have achieved my dreams to make my professional debut as an MMA fighter. This gave me the extra motivation to train more and learn more, hence more time is spent on training every day.
I have also received some media attention, which can be overwhelming, especially when I will need to balance time between work, training and media interviews.
With a hectic schedule, I have learned to make some sacrifices, especially when I have less time for myself or for friends and family. I try to make it a point though to keep in touch with them and meet them whenever possible.
I am just very grateful to have a supportive and understanding family and group of friends. Despite it all, I wouldn’t trade my experience or life for anything else in the world.
You were understandably disappointed and frustrated at Sherilyn Lim’s failure to make weight in March. Do you know when you will next be in the ring?
I was definitely disappointed with my fight being cancelled. However, this has never dampened my spirit – instead it has made me hungry for the next fight. I hope to be back in the ONE FC cage very soon.
Have you been keeping relatively match fit? What is an average daily training routine like for you?
Even when I am not training for a fight, I still train twice a day, on average three to four hours a day. In the morning, I either run or train with the team. I especially love morning trainings when the team and I train outdoors, by the beach, or even running uphill because it’s so refreshing and keeps my spirits high throughout the day.
Later in the day after work, I will join the training and classes at our Borneo Tribal MMA gym, usually from 6-9pm. This is when we drill techniques, do bag or pad work and also spar.
When I am training for a fight, training is more intense and longer.
Ever since I started training martial arts and MMA, working out or doing exercise is no longer a chore but it has become part of my lifestyle.
Who do you admire the most in sport and who gives you inspiration?
I am inspired by so many different athletes from different sports as well. However, I admire Bruce Lee for his speed and his philosophical views on life, martial arts and fighting.
What do you think you need to improve on and learn? What are your strongest points?
The thing about MMA is that it makes you feel that you should never be complacent – it keeps you feeling there is so much more to learn and improve on that it is never enough.
I always feel I need more improvement, be it for standing or ground game. However, my strongest point would be my heavy punches and strength.
Do you think women’s MMA will continue to flourish across Asia? Do you enjoy the media coverage you are getting?
I am sure it will, especially with MMA organisations such as ONE FC that continue to introduce new female fighters from around the Asia region.
ONE FC has become a global household name in MMA and continues to build a strong platform for fighters to build and advance their MMA fight career.
The fact that I am from Malaysia and I am part of the earliest group of female fighters signed with ONE FC has garnered some media interest. Though it is easy for one to lose sight, I am grateful to have family, friends, coaches and teammates who make me stay grounded and focused on my goals and dreams.
Athena is said to be the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilisation, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. Which of these attributes do you identify with the most?
We have a rule in the gym where we will need to earn our fight name and “Athena” was the name I earned after my first amateur MMA competition two years ago.
Despite training in MMA for just two months, I decided to compete in my first MMA competition at amateur level, hence I would say courage is the attribute I identify with the most.
If you had one bit of advice to give aspiring MMA fighters, what would it be?
Do it for the passion and be ready to put in the hard work. Listen to your coach, stay committed, persevere and have fun doing it.
Those wishing to attend the workshop at NagaWorld from 2pm on Thursday can send a request to