MEGGIE Ochoa has tried out several sports in her life, but it was in jiu-jitsu where she found her niche and, in the process, brought glory to the Philippines.
The 26-year-old Ochoa had a year to remember after winning two prestigious international competitions in jiu-jitsu, which is fast emerging as one of the sports that the Philippines can excel in.
But her journey to success in her chosen sport had a rocky start after the five-foot Ochoa bounced from being a varsity player for track and field, to football with Ateneo, before making the move to mixed martial arts, where her lack of height prevented her from finding opponents.
“Sa MMA po, hindi ganun karami ‘yung lumalaban na kasing-liit ko,” said the petite Ochoa. “Actually, wala naman akong weight class sa MMA. Sa MMA, gusto kong lumaban pero kapag nakahanap ng laban, biglang nagba-back out, makahanap ng replacement, nagba-back out uli.
“Inisip ko na if I want to compete, MMA might not be such a good option dahil limited ang competition sa Philippines,” she added.
Ochoa then made the move to jiu-jitsu, as suggested by her coaches, and the switch paid off.
“My coaches encouraged me to try jiu-jitsu kasi maraming females at may sure na may makakalaban ka,” said Ochoa.
This year, Ochoa became a world champion when she ruled the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championship last June in Long Beach, California.
Last September, she beat three rivals to take home the gold in the Asian Beach Games in Danang, Vietnam, her first official competition as a member of the national team.
After her successful 2016, Ochoa hopes to follow it up with better performances next year.
“Right now, rest ‘yung priority ko. If there is a good opportunity this year, I might join. But next year, definitely, meron,” said Ochoa, who also hopes that jiu-jitsu will be part of the calendar of the Asian Games in 2018.
“Malaki po ang chance natin sa Asian Games pero there’s Japan and Korea where martial arts is very ingrained in their culture,” said Ochoa.