After making her ONE Championship debut in November of 2015 against Angela Lee, who went on to become ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, “The Kilapino” has suffered two heartbreaking losses in a row to end up at 1-4.
The young fighter knew she had to make a drastic change if she was to find success in the sport.
“I had been doing my fight camps in Sydney, while working a full-time job in accounts and running my own business on the side. You can say my schedule was too busy, and I spent a lot of time travelling for training. It affected my performance, and I knew I had to make a change for this fight camp so I can get a different result,” said Hills.
Sometime last year, Hills made a bold decision to move her training camp from Australia to the United States, travelling thousands of kilometers to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to train at the world-renowned Jackson Wink MMA. Hills said the move has made a huge impact on her life and career.
“I chose Jackson Wink MMA for numerous reasons. By living on-site in the new dorms with full access to their facilities, everything would be in one place,” said Hills.
“Besides streamlining my training and recovery, Jackson Wink also has the most female fighters my weight and signed to various promotions, so I felt like it would be the best place to be challenged and to improve. It’s also situated in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains with the bonus of being at high altitude.”
Under the tutelage of legendary fight coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, who have worked with the biggest names in the industry including former world champions Georges St-Pierre, Rashad Evans, and Jon Jones, Hills says she is blessed to be in her position, and that training at Jackson Wink has been a life-changing experience.
“I’ve trained alongside some of the biggest names, living legends, which has been very inspiring,” said Hills.
“Every fighter has their story, and I’ve learned a lot from my training partners’ struggles and successes. Last month, Jodie Esquibel and Fee Chrystall fought, this month Michelle Waterson and I have fights. I feel like we have all pushed each other and grown as a result. It has been a very competitive but supportive atmosphere.”
The new training regimen provides a stark contrast to Hills’ previous setup. Back in Australia, Hills was largely self-trained, learning the basics of MMA on the fly. This time around, Hills made sure she overhauled her entire camp. The fate of her MMA career hangs in the balance.
“Coming to Jackson Wink was the best decision I have made in a long time. I feel like I have improved in the short amount of time I have been here,” said Hills. “There were gaps in my game from training disciplines separately, so I really want to continue to learn their system, which is far more comprehensive.”
This 21 April, at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, Hills returns to Manila for another go, this time against debuting Team Lakay female representative Gina “Conviction” Iniong. She gets another chance to show Filipino fans that she possesses the true Filipino warrior spirit.
Training at Jackson Wink MMA, Hills believes, was the missing piece to the puzzle. Hills just can’t stop gushing about her life-changing experience.
“The support and genuine camaraderie that I experienced was one of the best factors about training at Jackson Wink. There is a family vibe to it. You are surrounded by people who are working towards the same goals as you with the same dreams,” said Hills.
Will we see the best of Natalie Gonzales Hills at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY? The only way to find out is on 21 April at the Mall of Asia Arena.