Ann Osman makes her sophomore appearance at ONE FC 14 in front of a home crowd of Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur on March 14, 2014. In her rematch with Sherilyn Lim, she is determined to see the tide swung in her favor.
Malaysia is a country filled with sporty people. They have become one of the South East Asian nations with a very active and successful sports industry in the past couple of years. With the likes of Lee Chong Wei, the number one ranked Badminton player in the singles division in the world, the Malaysian National Football team who bagged the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup title, Pandelala Rinong, the first-ever Malaysian to win a medal at Olympics, and many other great athletes from this great nation, Malaysia is without a doubt, slowly becoming one of the powerhouses in Asia when it comes to sports.
In spite of having Silat as their national Martial Arts, there is a group of mixed martial artists in Malaysia who wants to put their country on the map like Actor/Model Peter Davis, ONE FC Malaysia National Featherweight Champion AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor, Muay Thai standout Saiful Merican, the young phenom Subba brothers Gianni and Keannu, and founding forerunners Jian Kai Chee and Melvin Yeoh. Currently, the lone female among them is the first-ever female professional mixed martial arts fighter, Ann “Athena” Osman.
Osman is the type of person who is always active, keeping herself busy and healthy. She trains out of Borneo Tribal Squad with the tutelage of AJ Pyro, and has regularly competed in Muay Thai as well as amateur MMA tourneys in Malaysia.
“Athena’s” big break came in last year when she was signed by ONE FC which put her in the history books as the first female Malaysian professional MMA fighter. On October 18, 2013, Osman made her debut appearance against Sinapore’s Sherilyn Lim. The fight was filled with back-and-forth action that put the crowd on the edge of their seats. It made a huge buzz in Asian MMA because the two fighters left it all inside the cage, showing far more thrilling action than expected given it was their co-debut.
After all was said and done, the judges favored Lim to win the fight via Split Decision. The call was very close that it required another fight to rub out all the doubts on Lim’s razor-thin decision win. The Osman – Lim rematch at ONE FC 14 has been chosen to open the prelims as a bang to start off the night. The rematch will happen in Osman’s back yard, and she is very pumped to face Lim for the second time. She wants to show that this time, she won’t let the fight go the distance and let the judges decide the outcome of the fight.
MMA-in-ASIA’s Zike Sugawara spoke with Malaysia’s first-ever female MMA fighter to get some insight on what has made Osman become the icon she is today.
Zike: First of all, how did you get into the sport of MMA?
Osman: I have always been sporty, in school and especially loving outdoor adventure sports – I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. While I don’t have a long past with martial arts, when I did try it out a few years ago, I immediately fell in love with it!
When I began going to the gym a couple of years ago, I’d see AJ ‘Pyro’ Lias Mansor training and teaching Muay Thai and MMA. Initially, I joined for fitness and fun, but before I knew it I was training with the Borneo Tribal Squad and competing in some amateur MMA and Muay Thai competitions!
Zike: So you have an active lifestyle and you love to play different sports. But why did you choose MMA over other sports?
Osman: I was drawn to it because of what it is, MIXED martial arts, as it teaches you a lot more techniques – MMA combines standing and striking with ground work and grappling – so it’s always exciting for me as I am learning so many skills from so many different arts – and I love it all – the standing, the striking, the ground work! I also feel it is great for confidence, fitness and self-defense and do encourage others, especially women to try it out!
Zike: Let’s talk about your first clash with Sherilyn Lim at ONE FC 11. It was a very close decision loss against her. Can you share your thoughts on that fight?
Osman: I thought it was definitely a close fight with three intense rounds all the way through. There was a lot of grappling and clinching going on and it was just unfortunate I lost by a 2:1 split decision. Nonetheless, I will be sure to come back better than my first fight and this time I won’t let it go to the judges’ decision!
Zike: Now that the rematch is on with Lim, what do you think are the mistakes that you’ve made on the first fight that you want to correct in the rematch?
Osman: My last fight in ONE FC against Sherilyn was a learning curve for both me and my coach, AJ, and we have assessed my performance from the last fight. We both are working together to adjust and improve both my striking and ground techniques. In preparation for my fight, I train both day and night, an average of 5-6 hours a day now and longer hours during the weekend, learning new techniques, on top of improving my strength and conditioning.
Zike: What is it like being the first-ever Malaysian female pro MMA fighter? Is there pressure?
Osman: It’s an honor and I’m proud to be representing Malaysia as it’s first female MMA fighter fighting professionally in ONE FC. I sincerely hope that I am able to set a positive example to women that we can be who we want: I am balancing my MMA career with a professional career – it’s not easy, but I wouldn’t do it any other way! And I hope to set an example for other Malaysians as well, that it doesn’t matter where you are from, set your goals, dream big, work hard and you can be and do anything you want!
Zike: You will be fighting Lim this time in your backyard in front of thousands of Malaysian supporters cheering for you. How important is it to have a lot of fans chanting your name in a fight?
Osman: I am very honored and happy to be fighting in front of thousands of my fellow Malaysians! Nonetheless, I do not see it as an added advantage as when we are in the cage, it’s just between me and Sherilyn.
Zike: Can you tell us a bit about Borneo Tribal Squad’s fighters program and how it has elevated your overall game?
Osman: We have diverse individuals training with Borneo Tribal Squad, and our head coach, ONE FC’s Malaysia National Featherweight Champion AJ, knows what it takes to be a ONE FC fighter. Hence he has put us to hard work for us to learn and improve our overall techniques and strength and conditioning. It has definitely helped me a lot to get where I am now as I have never had any martial art background in school, and yet ever since training with Borneo Tribal Squad, I am currently fighting professionally for ONE FC.
Zike: How has being with BTS changed you as a person and as a fighter?
Osman: In Borneo Tribal Squad, we get along like family. Since training with BTS, I have not only learnt the skills and techniques in Mixed Martial Arts but I have also discovered how tough and agile a person can be. I’ve bonded with so many people over the past years and I can say it has not only changed me TO BE a fighter but also has changed me to a better person.
Zike: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Osman: In the MMA scene, I have a lot of favorite fighters to be named actually, but generally I would say my coaches are my role models. For instance my coach AJ Pyro came up to the top recently as the National Champion after two losses prior to his victory fight – he trained hard and fought with a big heart, dedicating his win to his mother and giving his prize purse to the victims of Typhoon HaiYan. I have learnt a lot from my coaches skill wise, and most importantly other values such as perseverance and staying grounded. I hope to pay this forward and in return inspire more females, more Sabahans and more Malaysians to follow their passions and to pursue MMA!
Zike: If you weren’t a pro fighter, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?
Osman: If I weren’t a fighter, I’d probably just be working a 9 to 5 job and still seeking what else can I achieve better in life.
Zike: But you do have a “day job”, so aside from being a pro fighter, what is your other profession?
Osman: I actually have a corporate job with a media property company handling and managing business development and clientele for the whole East Malaysia -Sabah and Sarawak.
Zike: Do you have any message for Sherilyn Lim?
Osman: You may have got your hand raised in our last fight, but I am going to make sure it’s my hand that will be raised this March 14th in Kuala Lumpur!
Zike: Any sponsors or people you want to thank?
Osman: First and foremost, I would like to thank my coaches and teammates at Borneo Tribal Squad , my family, friends and supporters who have always given me endless encouragement and support. Also Tune Talk for their support. I would also like to make a shout out to all aspiring female fighters out there, to keep doing what you’re doing and let’s make Women’s MMA grow here in Asia!