The Malaysian will fight in enemy territory when she makes her promotional debut against fellow newcomer Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM, which broadcasts live on Saturday Night, 11 March, from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
However, she is used to dealing with high-pressure situations. Outside of the cage, she is Dr. Boniface to her patients and co-workers. Boniface, by trade and training, is a medical doctor who works in the Emergency & Trauma Department at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah in Malaysia. It is a highly-stressful job that consistently keeps her on her toes.
“I have to manage a lot of pressure and quick thinking there, especially working in emergency,” the National University of Malaysia graduate explains.
As for the circumstances surrounding her professional MMA career, Boniface actually stumbled onto MMA by accident three years ago. At the urging of a friend, she attended a class at ONE fighter AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor’s gym, the Borneo Tribal Squad MMA & Fitness Factory. She fell in love with MMA that very day upon stepping into the gym.
Boniface did not walk into the gym as a total novice, however. The eldest of five children already had an extensive history with martial arts.
“My first martial art was taekwondo, which I practiced when I was a student and earned a black belt in,” she explains. “I started training martial arts initially for self-defense. As time went by, it helped me a lot in so many ways, be it self-confidence, stress management, honor, discipline, love, trust, loyalty, and respect.”
Though the atomweight thoroughly enjoyed training in the various martial arts, it was also an escape for her to de-stress from the rigors of working inside the hospital. After all, being a medical doctor can be a very demanding occupation. In fact, it kicked her training into overdrive. That is when Mansor made her an offer she could not refuse.
“Coach AJ (Mansor) offered me a golden opportunity to become a professional fighter. I thought it would be fun and challenging. Without hesitating, I just said yes,” she recalls. “At that time, I was actually struggling with the stress in my workplace and wanted something to channel it the right way. I think I made the right decision!”
The doctor got some crucial experience before making the jump to professional MMA. She earned a couple of gold medals in regional BJJ competitions and gained a pair of quick submission victories in One Silat, a Malaysian promotion rooted in the national martial art of silat. By doing so, she won over one skeptical face in the crowd.
“At first, my mom was not very happy with me getting involved in this rough sport,” Boniface admits. “When I competed in One Silat, her heart opened, and now she is my number one fan.”
In July 2016, Boniface made her official pro MMA debut at Thai promotion Full Metal Dojo’s show in Bangkok, where she took on Sunisa Srisan. The “Ice Comet” would lose the fight in the second round via TKO, but that night, she learned some of the biggest lessons of her young fighting career.
“I learned to trust myself, as well as my corner and coach. I learned how important it is to have faith and always believe in my own ability 100 per cent, all of the time. I have so many people around me, who love me and support me, but in the end, it is always only going to be just me, myself, and I,” she states.
“I am in charge of my life and I am going to make myself proud of what I do — with my career, sports, and with family, friends and the community. Fighting teaches me to work hard, push what I believe my limits are, be proud of what I accomplish, and stay humble.”
Boniface’s limits will be tested at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM. With the grains of sand in the hourglass quickly draining until her promotional debut on the biggest MMA stage in Asia, she is making her final preparations before she stands across the cage from Ishige.
Ishige, who will be making her professional MMA debut, trains out of Bangkok Fight Lab and has worked extensively with her boyfriend, surging lightweight and Thai MMA pioneer Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai. Although the “Ice Comet” may have a slight experience advantage, she is not taking her opponent lightly by any means.
“She looks like a well-rounded fighter. This is going to be an awesome fight,” the Malaysian says. “I feel proud representing my team, my family, my state, and my country. I feel nervous. I feel excited.”
Boniface may be experiencing lots of different emotions, including a bit of pressure. But those are the situations she has always thrived in, and will continue to do so in the future.
In addition to a blockbuster main event featuring newly-crowned ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and top lightweight contender Ev “E.T.” Ting of Malaysia, ONE Championship recently announced eight bouts to solidify a spectacular fight card in Manila. The event takes place at the 20,000-seater Mall of Asia Arena on 21 April.
Added to the card are Folayang’s veteran Team Lakay stablemates Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (14-5), Danny “The King” Kingad, and the debuting Gina “Conviction” Iniong (4-2).
Belingon, a wushu striking specialist, is coming off a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Tajikistan prospect Muin Gafurov last October, and is set to take on Finnish grappling sensation Toni “Dynamite” Tauru (11-4-1). Tauru submitted Belingon’s Team Lakay teammate Geje Eustaquio last December, and Belingon has been wanting a piece of Tauru ever since.
Following Eustaquio’s loss, Filipino fight fans took to social media to demand a Belingon-Tauru matchup, to which the 29-year-old Belingon promptly agreed. Now, Belingon gets exactly what he had asked for. Tauru is certainly no slouch however, and is as dangerous as a fighter as they come. The stylistic matchup should be an entertaining affair for however long it lasts.
Making her highly-anticipated ONE Championship debut is Team Lakay female atomweight athlete Gina “Conviction” Iniong. She will go head-to-head with Filipino-English star, “The Kilapino” Natalie Gonzales Hills (1-4).
Iniong is one fighter Filipino fans have been yearning to see inside the ONE Championship cage. She already holds a victory over former atomweight title challenger Mei Yamaguchi in another promotion, and is said to be a legitimate candidate for a run at “Unstoppable” Angela Lee’s ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship.
If Iniong can get past Hills, who has been working hard to improve her skills training in the United States over the past couple of months, it could set up a possible date with higher-tier opponents later this year.
Making his return to the ONE Championship cage is high-flying young star Danny “The King” Kingad. Kingad, one of the most promising prospects to come out of the Philippines in recent memory, is undefeated so far in his professional career. His last two fights with ONE have ended in spectacular finishes. He’ll take on Malaysian prospect Muhammad Aiman (2-1).
The man Kingad defeated in his last outing, the enigmatic Eugene Toquero (8-4) will also be making an appearance in Manila, this time against unbeaten Indonesian fighter Stefer Rahardian (5-0).
Aside from the incredible showcase of top local talent from the Philippines, a handful of international ONE superstars are also scheduled to see action, with the main card featuring a bout between Cambodia’s Chan Rothana (4-2) and China’s Xie Bin (2-2).
What’s more, Christian “The Warrior” Lee (5-1), a top featherweight prospect representing Singapore by way of Waipahu, Hawaii, is ready to make his return to the ONE Championship cage.
Lee, who was put to sleep courtesy of a Martin Nguyen guillotine choke last August, took some time away from competition to work on sharpening his skills for an inevitable comeback. The 18-year-old will finally get to face long-time divisional rival and fellow top prospect Keanu Subba (5-2) of Malaysia.
The pair have long been on somewhat of a collision course as two of the top young talents in the promotion. They get the chance to settle the score once and for all in Manila.
Also on the card is Evolve MMA female stalwart and women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Michelle Nicolini (3-1). Nicolini made her ONE Championship promotional debut last November, winning by submission over Mona Samir. This time, the eight-time BJJ world champion is set to clash with unbeaten 33-year-old Russian fighter Irina Mazepa (2-0).
Mazepa is one of the top contenders at strawweight, having already defeated Malaysian standout Ann Osman and former women’s boxing world champion Ana Julaton in her first two appearances inside the ONE Championship cage. It will be a tremendous test for Nicolini, who gets the opportunity to prove her mettle against a top-tier foe.
Kicking off the preliminary portion of the night is Filipino wushu specialist Robin Catalan (5-2) who takes on compatriot Jeremy “The Jaguar” Miado (6-0).
All in all, ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY is certainly one of the most stacked fight cards of the year. Filipino fight fans have on their hands an evening that they just cannot afford to miss. Additional bouts will be announced at a later date.
On the heels of yet another stunning performance where she dominated challenger Jenny Huang in the main event of ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM in Bangkok, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee makes good on her promise to be a more active fighter in 2017.
The 20-year-old Lee (7-0) is now scheduled to make the second defense of her title on 26 May, when ONE Championship returns to the Singapore Indoor Stadium for ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES. The opponent this time around is undefeated atomweight fighter Istela Nunes (6-0) of Brazil.
“I said at the beginning of the year that I will make 2017 one to remember. I will keep my promise of being as active as I possibly can, and I can’t wait to get right back in there,“ said Lee.
The 24-year-old Nunes, who defeated Japanese MMA veteran Mei Yamaguchi via a closely-contested split decision last August, earned her shot at the title via a gritty performance.
Although Yamaguchi gave Angela Lee all she could handle in their May 2016 bout for the inaugural women’s atomweight belt, the Japanese fighter came up short against Nunes, who was making her ONE Championship debut.
Nunes is so far unbeaten in her professional mixed martial arts career, yet Lee welcomes the challenge and sends a warning to Nunes ahead of the matchup.
“After my last fight, I showed everybody just how much I have improved over the last couple of months. I’m ready to do it again. Istela Nunes had better be ready to go to battle, because this time I’m defending the title on my turf,” Lee concluded.
Nunes is the next logical opponent for Lee, having beaten a former title challenger. As Lee continues to clean out the women’s atomweight division, her star continues to rise along with her budding reputation and worldwide fame. Today, Lee is arguably ONE Championship’s biggest superstar, and appears to be in the midst of what could be a very lengthy title run.
Nunes, on the other hand, has her eyes fixated on an upset.
“When I joined ONE Championship, I had my eyes set on the world title. It’s my goal to someday become a world champion in mixed martial arts, and Angela Lee is one of the best fighters in the world,” said the Brazilian, vowing to do whatever it takes to capture the title.
“I am preparing myself well and will make sure that I come ready for the best Angela Lee possible. On 26 May, I will accomplish what so many others failed to do. I will beat Angela Lee and become champion.”
ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES is set for 26 May at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Additional bouts have yet to be announced.