Irina Mazepa was initially scheduled to make her ONE Championship debut against Ana Julaton in 2014, but after a conflicting schedule prevents her from making the fight, her debut fight eventually delayed for a year.
When she finally got into the cage, she quickly made a statement on ONE’s more established women’s division by scoring a first round knockout win for the highly touted Ann Osman on her ONE Championship debut in Kuala Lumpur in October this year, stopping Osman’s 3-fight win streak in what is potentially a knockout of the year.
“Of course I felt very happy (for the win). Ann Osman is more experienced than me in MMA. (But) for me, it was not a big surprise. I trained hard, and I stay focused on my fight, even more knowing the level of my opponent. So, when I come to Kuala Lumpur, I know that I come to win the fight.”
Wasting little time, she returns to the cage in less than 2 months to face former boxing champion Ana Julaton, the opponent that she was suppose to face last year, on ONE Championship: Spirit of Champions in Manila, Philippines, this weekend. Unlike Osman who is known to be a grinder, the kickboxer is now faced with an opponent who is more comfortable standing up and trading blows.
“It depends… Ana is very good boxer, and I’m sure she will use her boxing skills only if she’s in trouble. So, I wait from her that she brings me on canvas to work a specific MMA skills… and will use boxing experience only if I keep the fight in stand up… I know that, and I prepared for that.
If the fight becomes at be a boxing fight with MMA gloves, it will be interesting for me to see how is my boxing level against a former world champion… if the fight is on the ground, will be interesting to test me too.”
In addition to her boxing skills, Julaton said in an interview with MMA Junkie Radio to have trained with renowned coach Ricky Lundell ahead of this fight to improve her ground game, with Lundell claiming the she will be a completely different fighter from a year ago.
Yes, of course, she is more well rounded than me, and we expect her to be much more complete than one year ago when we were supposed to fight together, (but) it’s ok, it will give me more challenge and make the fight much more exciting for me.
It’s great opportunity for me to fight against fighters of this caliber. Without experience (in MMA), I must say that I am very lucky to have around me my friend-coach Didier, our agent Mayumi Yamamoto and ONE Chmpionship , all believe in me, trust in me and give me this opportunity.
Even when asked about the title fight on her division which has been running since 2013, the St. Petersburg native remain modest on the issue.
“I don’t know at all. I don’t have much interest about the business strategies from the organisations.
What I understand is that stars in Malaysia likes Ann Osman, or in Philippines likes Ana Julaton are very important for the promotion of the event in these areas. Ann and Ana bring public and TV of course it’s better if they win.
ONE don’t organise shows in Russia, and in MMA world, I’m not famous in Russia… so I understand that I am not an “interesting” client for them for now. I must prove in the cage that they were right to believe in me, and now, it is even more important as I have to reaffirm that win.
If I lose against Ana, everybody will think I was lucky with Ann, or maybe she was in a bad day and was unlucky. If I win and confirm against Ana, all MMA people will have more interest for me, not only Didier and Mayumi. This much I understand, like all my sport careers.
In Kick-Boxing, Muay Thai, I got opportunities because my coach and manager Didier have his good reputation and credible as trainer in these sports. After showing what I am able to do in the ring, it’s more easy now to receive interesting fight propositions. Didier told me it will be the same in MMA. So he trust me and I trust him, and I will do my best to give Philippine public a good show, and to be a good opponent for Ana as she deserves in front of her public.”
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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