Malaysia’s fighting belle, Ann “Athena” Osman (3-2) of Kota Kinabalu will make her much-anticipated return to the ONE Championship cage this weekend to take on Egyptian Top Team’s Haiat Farag (1-0) in a three-round women’s flyweight contest.
Osman was last seen in a shock knockout loss to Russian Irina Mazepa back in October. Mazepa stopped Osman just three minutes into the first round in front of Osman’s hometown crowd in Kuala Lumpur, completing a comprehensive performance against one of the promotion’s premiere athletes.
Osman for one, believes she has gotten over the loss and that she left the cage a much better fighter than when she first entered it. It’s been nearly eight months since Osman last stepped foot on the canvas, and she’s eager to get right back in there and resume her career.
“Eight months of waiting definitely feels like forever,” said Osman, who recently turned 30. “I have always been occupied with running my business, work, and daily training, but I have remained hungry to get back to fighting.”
Known as a tough, grinding warrior, Osman is one of the strongest females in ONE Championship. After losing her professional mixed martial arts debut, Osman strung together three straight victories against tough opponents, including a hard-earned split decision over world boxing champion Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton in Dubai.
Osman followed that performance with a TKO victory over Aya Saber, and an impressive submission victory over Walaa Abbas. The three victories put her on the map, and earned Osman mainstream popularity, attracting coverage from prominent media titles all over the world.
When she met Mazepa, however, Osman was terribly overmatched against a fearsome striker, and lost a stand-up battle in which her Russian foe appeared simply faster and stronger that evening.
Since then, Osman says she’s tweaked her game and made some improvements – all of which fans will have to wait to see when she gets back into competition.
“Having a long downtime, we worked on all aspects of my game, as I feel it’s important to improve as a whole as opposed to just one aspect,” said Osman.
“However, having said that, I do feel my ground game has improved much more, especially after competing in a few Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments.”
Osman was in Manila this May to compete in the 2016 Pan Asia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament. She lost to fellow mixed martial artist Geli Bulaong in the final match, earning her a silver medal.
Whereas some fighters feel the nerves returning to the cage after a long hiatus, Osman says she feels right at home, and can’t wait to feel the rush of competition once again.
I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN OCCUPIED WITH RUNNING MY BUSINESS, WORK AND DAILY TRAINING, BUT I HAVE REMAINED HUNGRY TO GET BACK TO FIGHTING.
Osman said she would be ecstatic instead when asked if she would have jitters when she steps back inside the ONE Championship cage.
“I have been waiting and training diligently to get back to fighting for so long that I am very excited and grateful to be given the opportunity.”
When asked what she missed the most, Osman said that it was the whole ONE Fight Night experience and the adulation from thousands of MMA fans as she makes her walk down the ramp.
“The adrenaline rush – just the whole ‘fight mode’ feeling, where I’m just in my element and always focused on my fight,” said Osman.
“Then it’s the fight, waiting for my time to walk out and finish business.”
The Osman versus Farag bout is scheduled for three rounds in the women’s flyweight division, and is part of the undercard for ONE: Dynasty of Champions (Hefei).
Headlining the event is former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa, as he takes on Filipino featherweight star Eric “The Natural” Kelly.
The event marks the return of ONE Championship to mainland China, since last holding a show in Changsha this January.