Back in October, MMA fans in got an eyeful of something they hadn’t quite seen before, and they loved it.
Ann Osman, the first female MMA fighter from Malaysia, fought through three rounds with Singapore’s Sherilyn Lim at ONE FC 11. It was part of a card with what were considered bigger fights, but the crowd had perhaps its biggest reaction after Lim and Osman had reached the end of their fight.
Now Osman is looking to build on the experience. This time, she hopes, with a win.
The strawweight is set to face Lim in a rematch of their popular October fight on March 14 as part of ONE FC 14. They’ll be in Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and in front of Osman’s home crowd after fighting the first bout in Lim’s home of Singapore.
“No two ways about it,” Osman told MMAjunkie, “I am back with a vengeance.”
Osman’s story goes beyond her impressive professional debut. A lover of outdoor adventure sports, she noticed muay Thai and MMA classes being taught at her gym, and she was curious. She had been an athlete growing up among her four siblings, so she quickly made the transition to the world of MMA.
Meanwhile, she has carried a unique responsibility as a female fighter in a region that is seeing more of them and in a country that has never experienced a professional one. That, mixed with the result of the first fight between the two, makes the upcoming matchup even more anticipated.
“Winning this fight means so much to me,” Osman wrote. “I want this win not just for me, but for my team, for other women and for my country. I want to show you can balance your career and your dreams, and that if you believe in yourself and work hard, you can do anything – no matter who you are and where you are from.”
Athlete from the start
Osman was born and raised in the Malaysian state of Sabah, a region on the eastern side of the country with a population of more than 3 million. She and her siblings were early on pulled into helping out with their parents’ food business, as their parents tried to teach them about responsibility and independence.
The children of her neighborhood were constantly playing outside, which she did as well. She was a basketball player, but she also grew to gain affection for adventure sports from her days of spending time playing outside.
In high school, Osman attended a boarding school, which helped her grow her independence that her parents stressed from the start. Her studies took her into a corporate career that she continues to pursue today.
But she continued to maintain her interest in athletics. She continued going to the gym for workouts, and she noticed MMA classes being taught. She thought it would be a more interesting way to stay in shape than the other regular workouts, so she asked to get involved.
“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,” she wrote.
Before long, it would become a much bigger part of her life.
Starting with a bang
Even though Osman didn’t anticipate getting heavily involved in MMA when she started trying classes, others noticed her skill from the beginning. She was quickly training with a team at her gym, and she moved into competitions, starting with Muay Thai and then on a smaller MMA scale.
It was a unique situation for both Osman and her country. She didn’t have many training options involving females, so her training was done almost exclusively with male counterparts.
By October, she had earned her first professional fight. There was an estimated crowd of 12,000 as Osman met Lim as part of a busy card.
But their fight immediately became a crowd favorite.
“I thought it was definitely a fairly close fight with three intense rounds all the way through,” Osman wrote. “There were definitely a lot of grappling and clinching going on and it was just unfortunate I lost by a 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.”
That’s her goal for her second professional fight. Osman’s story seems serious at times, from helping her parents’ business to study at boarding school to tough training with the men on her team. But she remains someone who sings loud in the car on the way to the gym and works on her professional career outside of fighting.
She’s hoping the work translates into her first professional win next month.
“I am giving everything I have – training morning, noon and night for it (around my job), learning from my mistakes from my last fight and working hard to improve my techniques,” she wrote.
Last week, Elias Garcia told us his story about moving from a Coast Guard search-and-rescue career to a full-time MMA career and starting 4-0 as a professional. The flyweight suffered his first loss last Friday when he was defeated in a split decision by Henry Cejudo at Legacy Fighting Championship 27. Garcia, of Corpus Christi, Texas, is now 4-1.
For more on ONE FC 14, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Award-winning newspaper reporter Kyle Nagel pens “Fight Path” each week. The column focuses on the circumstances that led fighters to a profession in MMA. Know a fighter with an interesting story? Email us at news [at] mmajunkie.com.