Ana Julaton posing for the cameras. Photo by Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton could have entered the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) a long time ago, but life had a different plan for her.
Julaton was dabbling in ju-jitsu and boxing when she got a call to challenge Kelsey Jeffries, a 50-fight veteran, for the IBA super female super bantamweight championship in 2009.
She eventually defeated Jeffries to win the title and this directed her full time to boxing.
“It’s very demanding, with boxing you have to train really hard,” Julaton said following her open MMA training at the World Muay Thai Team USA Gym on Tuesday in Makati City.
The gym was packed with local MMA media, who are all curious about her capabilities as an MMA fighter. All they know is that Julaton is a very accomplished boxer, having become the first Filipina to win not just one, but two world titles including the WBO female super bantam crown.
This Friday, she will be making her professional MMA debut against Egypt’s Aya Saeid Saber, an experienced MMA fighter with five pro bouts under her belt.
Fight fans want to know if she can be victorious inside in the cage just like she was in the boxing ring.
Julaton, who was born to Filipino immigrants Cesario Julaton II and Ahmelia Bonifacio, was already a taekwondo and kenpo karate black belter before even lacing a pair of boxing gloves.
She believes she couldn’t have picked a better timing competing in MMA.
“I’m so lucky that the timing is working out. When I won my first title I was actually doing ju-jitsu so if I’ve never gotten the call to fight Kelsey Jeffries, I might have gone to MMA already. But since I’ve won my first title, it changed my life so I had to practice boxing,” Julaton said.
The Filipina looked flawless while doing her shadow boxing. With regards to her ground game, she assured that she got that one covered, too.
"I train at UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) in Las Vegas. A lot of fighters out there, they have a big background in wrestling in ju-jitsu. So a lot of my sparring partners, people that I get comfortable with, they’re the same people that I’ve been training with," said Julaton.
The 33-year-old is also pleased that she will be making her MMA debut in front of Filipino fans as she and Saber are lined up to fight in ONE FC: Rise of Heroes at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
“It’s like a dream,” she said. “I’m a woman in a male-dominated sport. It’s not easy being a fighter, it’s not easy being a woman. I’m so happy that everyone in the Philippines has supported me throughout my entire career, that’s 10 years. I live in the United States, but my heritage is here in the Philippines.”
This, however, doesn’t mean that she’ll be leaving boxing for good.
According to her trainer, Angelo Reyes, Julaton’s promoter is still in negotiations to have her fight in the Philippines.
“I know that Alan Tremblay [of Orion Sports] is now trying to do a world title fight in the fall, also here in the Philippines. He wants to do maybe a rematch with Jessica Brown or a rematch with Yesica Marcos. So they’re trying to put that up together,” he said.
“Ana’s dream is to fight at home, more than everyone. I think you’ll see a lot more of here [here in the Philippines].”