Ana Julaton knows what it takes to become a world champion. She has won numerous titles in boxing but has set her sights on becoming the first ever female fighter to win a belt with ONE Championship.
It is surprising how rarely we see fighters from boxing backgrounds successfully transition to MMA. Perhaps that’s because, for men at least, the amount of money that can be made by reaching the pinnacle of the former sport far exceeds the sort of purses on offer in the latter.
MY GAME IS TO WIN A TITLE. I FEEL LIKE I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A CHAMPION. COME ONE ONE FC, BRING OUT A BELT.
However while women now headline major MMA cards there is very little precedent for female fights being held on the biggest boxing shows. So despite being a multiple time world champion Julaton needed to switch codes in order to have the opportunity to fight in front of capacity crowds in major arenas.
“With my boxing career I’ve fought all over the world. I’ve fought an Argentinian in Argentia, I fought a Mexican in Mexico, I fought a Canadian in Canada but it’s nice to be a Filipino fighting in the Philippines,” she says.
“There’s a different vibe, there’s a different intensity and I feel like I’m on top of the world when I have 20,000 Filipino fans cheering for me at the Mall of Asia Arena. It’s something I look forward to and I love and appreciate.”
Julaton is best known for her boxing exploits. She was a successful amateur who aspired to go to the Olympics but, instead of sitting around for female fighters to be accepted into the world’s most prestigious sporting event, she decided to turn pro in 2007. Within two years she would be a world champion, but the 35-year-old began training martial arts long before she turned to the sweet science.
“I’m a martial artist, I was kicking since the age of 10. I wake up every day and I identify myself as a striker. I’m a boxer but I’m changing my thinking to see myself as a wrestler, as a Jiu Jitsu person, as a Muay Thai person…”
AT ONE: ‘Spirit of Champions’ on 11 December Julaton is returning to the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila to take on Irina Mazepa. The Russian comes from a kickboxing and Wushu background and knocked Ann Osman out in her pro MMA debut but the Fil-Am bantamweight saw that fight and wasn’t overly impressed.
“Anyone can have knockout power. If you stand right in front of them with your hands down and you let them set their feet and they punch you a few times, you’re going to go down.”
Osman is the only fighter to ever defeat Julaton in MMA, in a fight that finished in a split decision. By contrast Mazepa needed less than a round to knock out the Malaysian but the boxer is adamant this won’t be happening to her.
“Ann Osman is not a striker. Ann Osman did not box. Ann Osman did not do professional kickboxing. The difference between Ann Osman and me is that I have fought girls with that kind of experience and I have fought girls who understand boxing and understand strategy and power and pressure.”
Julaton believes that having high level boxing experience gives her an advantage over opponents in MMA. It’s not just about knowing how to punch and parry, she believes it has given her mental strength and the ability to make quick adjustments inside the cage.
“Boxing is all about understanding who you are and understanding how to break a person down mentally, physically, emotionally within an allotted time. There’s something about the adversity that boxing teaches a fighter that I feel like none of the other arts are able to experience. Boxing is an unforgiving sport.”
Julaton has made it very clear that she would like an opportunity to avenge the sole loss of her MMA career to date. It’s probably a matter of when, not if, the rematch with Osman occurs but first and foremost she wants a shot at becoming a champion in two separate sports.
“My game is to win a title. I feel like I have what it takes to be a champion. Come on ONE FC let’s make a women’s championship. Let’s bring out a belt. I want a belt.”
Julaton even has a specific schedule in mind for a shot at the inaugural ONE Championship women’s f1yweight title.
“I’m looking forward to this fight, I’m hoping to capture a win. I’m going to put it down on this girl and then I want a rematch with Ann Osman. Hopefully after that I’ll be able to have a title fight.”
This will be the third time Julaton has competed on a ONE Championship card in Manila and she’s let to lose there. For the San Francisco native, whose parents were both Filipino immigrants, there is something special about fighting in the Philippines.
“There’s just something about it. As soon as I get out of the airplane and I’m in the airport it’s so crazy because when the people start to recognize who you are.”
Julaton trains very seriously and believes she has made significant improvements since making her pro MMA debut in 2014. She’s been away from the cage for exactly a year and is excited to be showing off some newly acquired skills to the fans in Manila.
“I’ve been working my ass off and I just can’t wait. I look forward to seeing everyone 11 December and I look forward to making everyone proud.”