Put it down to her day job as a personal trainer but Ramona Pascual knew she’d have to turn her last loss into a learning experience. And quickly.
“When I fight there’s always all sorts of questions [from her students] but that helps me as well because I can get things off my chest,” Pascual explains.
“It helps me figure out how I am feeling about things, and to work through those feelings. You go back and look at what didn’t work and why. It’s a process of elimination and you come out the other side better for the experience.”
The 28-year-old Hong Kong-based fighter last fought on 31 May, falling to Australia’s Janay Harding and a ground and pound in the second round of their featherweight weight bout on the E-1 World Championship card in Hong Kong. It was a result that took Pascual’s record to 2-2 in the sport, with all those fights having come since last August.
How Pascual reacted to that loss – her second on end – was, she says, vital to her future in MMA, and her experiences provide an rare insight, for those outside the cage, on the mindset needed to be a fighter.
Even at this early stage of Pascual’s career, she realised it was time to stop and to take stock. The talent she has shown for the sport meant there were offers for Pascual to return to the cage in September, at shows in mainland China and in Hong Kong. But Pascual felt she needed to expand her horizons – and that’s why this month finds her based just about an hour outside Seoul, at the Wonju training base of South Korea’s Road Fighting Championship.
TRAVELLING MAKES A HUGE IMPACT. IT’S BEEN OPENING UP MY MIND AND TESTING MY GAME AND SKILLS.
The bosses at Road FC had been watching Pascual’s progress in the sport, and had put her through her paces at a workout in Hong Kong back in May. The talk since had been about her travelling to South Korea for training and, when we talk, Pascual is fresh from attending the Road FC 041 event.
“They wanted me to witness the whole process, the fighters coming in and what goes on behind the scenes,” she says. “I’m also here to train of course and the level here is very high. I’m with their fighters and their coaches and the whole goal of it is to enhance my training. In Hong Kong we don’t have such a deep level of MMA.
“They looked at my level in May and thought it would be good to come here and broaden my experience. It’s about developing a more MMA style. There’s no guarantee about signing or anything. It’s more an opportunity to meet the team, experience the training, and getting a taste for the style and standard of training here.”
Pre-South Korea, Pascual had ventured on a training trip-cum-holiday to Los Angeles that found her spending a few weeks working out at the famed Kings MMA set up.
“Travelling makes a huge impact,” she says. “It’s been opening up my mind and testing my game and my skills. It’s been pushing me. It can be quite uncomfortable going somewhere that is quite intimidating and that has a style of training that I’m not quite used to. But overall it’s always a good experience to travel and see how things are done in other places, and to be part of such quality training.”
The time away from preparing for an actual bout has also seen Pascual continue the process of examination that followed that last loss.
“There’s been a lot of reflection, for sure,” she says. “It’s given me a lot of insight into how I can better develop. As each fight goes I gain so much experience. So I am just trying to take advantage of all these new opportunities.
“Everyone wants to have a great record and people do look at that. But at the end of the day a lot of these opportunities are a case of right place, right time as well. It people see you’re active, they’re more interested in maybe giving you a chance.”
What has helped also, Pascual says, is the memory of the first loss of her career, against Englishwoman Jennifer Norris back at the IMPI World Series – Asia 6 event in April.
The disappointment was palpable coming in front of a home-town crowd that seemed packed with Pascual’s students (she was training out of Epic MMA then, and has since moved to use the facilities at Versus Performance gym in Hong Kong). But, about an hour after the fight, a huge group of them where still waiting outside the stadium to offer their support, and an impromptu life lesson.
“I was devastated and then I saw them and it was one of those things that makes you realise that life is bigger than a loss, or a setback,” says Pascual. “So you move on, and you learn.”