NATALIE Gonzales-Hills doesn't just proudly show her love for her Filipino heritage with the image of the three stars and the sun of the Philippine flag tattooed on her right arm, but the Fil-Brit fighter also carries the Pinoy spirit in her heart.
Fighting for ONE Championship has given Gonzales-Hills not only the opportunity to compete in mixed martial arts, but also an avenue to take pride in her heritage.
“They will be on fight night,” said the 29-year-old fighter of her relatives from her mother side who will be there when she faces Gina Iniong in ONE: Kings of Destiny on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I fight for ONE so I see them regularly. But before, I came to trips for training,” said Gonzales-Hills.
Gonzales Hills didn’t grow up in her hometown of Cavite City as her family moved to England when she was only nine months old.
“When I speak Tagalog, I sound barok because of my accent, it’s very English. But when I grew up, my mom, she spent all the time with me,” she shared.
Now that she fights in Asia, Gonzales-Hills said she has gotten closer to her Filipino roots, but one thing she's not too fond of is fighting fellow Filipinos. Friday’s fight against Team Lakay’s Iniong is no exception.
“I don’t like fighting Filipinos because I consider myself a Filipino and I have a lot of respect for Team Lakay. I like Team Lakay and the fighters they produce so it’s always hard for me to fight a Filipino. I just fight whoever is in front of me but, unfortunately, it’s a Filipino. Hopefully, next time, I get someone foreign,” Gonzales Hills said.
Gonzales-Hills sees an exciting fight against Iniong, who will be making her ONE debut, on Friday.
“Both of us have been training in altitude. We are both strikers but we also have submission. It’s going to be exciting because you don’t know what will happen in the fight."
“My game plan, personally, is my mindset. I just want to be composed and just work on my strikes. I want to showcase my skills, striking namely. But I can take it to the ground and I can do other things,” said Gonzales-Hills.
Even though she is based in Sydney, Gonzales Hills also feels right at home with the Filipino crowd.
“It’s a good reception. I feel I’m very proud of my heritage. I have a flag on my elbow, I have a writing on my wrist. Fighting in front of the Filipino crowd, they are very welcoming. They are very accepting,” said Gonzales Hills.