There may not be a brighter star in Malaysia’s growing martial arts scene than Ann “Athena” Osman.
As one of the country’s first female competitors, the 31-year-old strawweight has skyrocketed to the upper echelons of public consciousness right alongside ONE Championship, especially in her home country. She’s even been featured in international publications such as Time Magazine.
That has made the Kota Kinabalu, Sabah native an ambassador for martial arts, a role she has readily accepted with arms wide open. “Since 2013, I have been used to attending to media requests,” she says. “It is quite normal to me.”
The extra eyes on Osman have also helped her both inside and outside of the cage.
“With all the attention I have been getting, it helps with my personal brand. I have also had the opportunity to work with huge brands in Malaysia. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but right now, I know how to manage it.”
Despite Osman’s popularity and media darling demeanor, none of that matters if she cannot perform in the cage. Thus far, she has proved to be more than proficient as one of the Asian promotion’s top female athletes.
She has accummulated a 5-3 professional record, and she kicked off 2017 with a first-round TKO victory over Cambodia’s Vy Srey Khouch.
While she is doing her part to win, she is also taking the necessary steps to constantly improve, even when she does not have a match scheduled.
In recent months, “Athena” had the opportunity to improve her Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and was fortunate enough to get some lessons from a member of the BJJ royal family.
“Carlson Gracie Junior came with some of his students from Chicago to Sabah to climb a mountain,” she recalls. “They were here for a week, and it was great to learn from his students and from Carlson Gracie himself.”
That need to constantly train, compete, and stay active has been ingrained in Osman’s daily life. Although she has only participated in mixed martial arts for five years, dating back to her lone amateur contest back in 2012, she feels as if she has been involved for much longer.
For the Borneo Tribal Squad product, martial arts has not only changed her life, but has become a major part of it. “I do not think I could ever imagine myself without martial arts. I see myself doing this for many years. If I am not competitive and fighting, I would still be training and doing tournaments to stay active. It really builds character.”
That is the message Osman brings to the men and women she comes across daily. She is the co-owner of the Fitness Rites Centre, a gym dedicated to starting people out on their fitness journeys. Though the message varies depending on the individual she is speaking to, one thing is clear: martial arts is both life-changing and sustaining.
“Men and women have different concerns,” she says, when speaking to people about training and getting fit. “Men are more inclined to fight. Women are more intimidated by the idea.”
For many of the women Osman comes across, martial arts is more of a practical matter than a new hobby. “I do see women who are interested for self-defense purposes,” she begins.
“In my studio, I do a weekly training to teach my members basic mixed martial arts. They find out they are stronger than they thought they would be. From there, they have gotten interested in martial arts, and pursued it further by seeking out a gym. That stuff helps in getting women to train.”
Something else that will help inspire women to train is seeing their coach get a marquee win over a big name. “Athena” will attempt to do just that on 18 August, when she takes on former Singaporean Olympic swimmer May Ooi (2-2) at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS. The event will be held at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
In many ways, the event title is fitting for Osman. She is truly on a quest for greatness, and to deliver a show-stealing performance.
“I have my wins and losses. I have learned that I just have to do my best. Whether it’s fight camp or off season, I just learn new things every time. When it comes to the fight, I just give everything I have. I want to deliver the most exciting fight that night, whatever the results may be.”