BANGKOK – Before April Osenio steps back into the cage in a bid to get her MMA career back on track, she made sure to secure her future first.
A year after that devastating submission loss to Jenny Huang in Manila, the 23-year-old native of Baguio City spent time off the ring working on her degree in Criminal Justice Education at the University of Cordilleras.
After finally securing her diploma last September, she can finally refocus on her return fight against Chinese MMA stalwart Xiong Jin Nan in the main card of ONE: Warriors of the World on Saturday at the Impact Arena here.
For the Team Lakay fighter, pursuing passion for martial arts and getting quality education aren’t two mutually exclusive ideas and she’s the perfect example of that.
This is also one way of breaking the stereotype that fighters are all brawns.
“Pursuing your passion for martial arts is not a hindrance in securing your future through education. It is also a way of breaking the stigma that fighters have in our society,” said Osenio, who hopes to set an example for all young aspiring fighters.
“It’s an achievement that I was able to set an example for others to follow,” she added.
While the Lakay stable up north is the most successful MMA team in the country, most of its fighters are also degree holders – like former ONE World Champion Eduard Folayang – or still pursuing their studies through wushu.
This is one virtue that Osenio understands at a very young age. She knows she can’t be doing this forever.
“I know my career as a fighter will not last for a long time. By the time I reach 38 or 40 years old, I need to retire and have another job to support my family,” Osenio, who currently totes a 2-2 record in her MMA career, said.
But while still young, Osenio is out to make the most out of her MMA career.
After losing via Gogoplata to Huang, Osenio expects to be tested against Xiong who has proven herself outside of the ONE cage even before making her debut in Asia's premier MMA outfit.
Xiong has a 9-1 record, with six of her victories coming via KO or TKO finishes. The 29-year-old Chinese will also have familiarity by her side as she’s been training in Thailand for a long time under the Phuket Top Team.
But Osenio is unfazed.
“It has been a while since fans last saw me in the cage. I would say I have not changed a lot, I have just been working on improving my skills. My style is still the same. I focus on my wushu and really want to test my opponent’s striking abilities. I am excited to show everyone how much better I am this time around,” Osenio said.