US-based Filipina striker Jackie Buntan has never had the chance to connect to her roots having been raised in the United States, but as she makes her ONE Championship debut, she now has the opportunity to do so.
Buntan enters ONE Super Series against Wondergirl Fairtex at ONE: Fists of Fury on Friday, February 26 at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Born to Filipino parents in California, Buntan’s knowledge about her heritage has come from the stories of her elders.
Now that she’s competing in Southeast Asia for the first time, she hopes to make a proper introduction to her Filipino fanbase and maybe one day get the opportunity to compete in the Philippines.
“I’ve never been to the Philippines. When I told my family about it, explaining it’s a promotion based in Asia, the first thing they said was, ‘You got to fight in the Philippines’,” Buntan said.
“I have so many relatives over there. It will be great to fight in front of them for the first time and have them see what I do.”
Though her knowledge and connection to the Philippines is limited, she found out first-hand just how supportive Filipinos are when she started competing.
“The thing about Filipinos is they’re so proud. It’s awesome how they show so much respect and support,” Buntan said.
“I have so many relatives. Some of them I haven’t even met and they don’t even know what I do, nor do they know what Muay Thai is, but if it’s a Filipino representing, [they’re] all for it. So that’s awesome.”
But if she has anything in common with fellow Filipino athletes, it’s her admiration for 8-division former world champion Manny Pacquiao.
Buntan discovered Pacquiao through her family’s viewing parties of the boxer’s matches when she was starting Muay Thai.
“Being a Filipino, there’s always a big family party watching his fights. Even during the time when I was watching him, I was doing Muay Thai and I didn’t know much about boxing. It was still cool to see him do what he does and all that he does for his community as well,” she said.
However, she soon discovered what makes Pacquiao stand out, and that’s exactly what she has tried to embody over the years.
“It was hard for me to fully understand it when I was super young, but it’s the work ethic behind him and how he started literally from nothing to where he is now. It inspired me,” Buntan said.
“It made me realize that if you really love something and are passionate about something, you can just put your head down and put in the work and you can achieve whatever you want.”
Buntan will now try to channel Pacquiao’s grit and determination when she takes on Wondergirl, a strong favorite who has run through all her opponents in the Circle so far.
FROM THE ARCHIVES