'In the red corner, standing at 160cm tall, representing Borneo Tribal Squad MMA, from Malaysia. Presenting...Ann 'Athena' Osman!'
Strutting down the ramp with Fat Joe & Remy Ma's "All The Way Up
" blasting in the background and the Malaysian flag plastered across her back, Ann 'Athena' Osman only has one thing on her mind: win.
And the moment she enters the octagon, she puts on a show. For 25 brutal minutes, Ann Osman only has her opponent in her sights. She'll throw fast jabs, right and left hooks, powerful kicks (while receiving some, of course), she'll try and pin her opponent on the floor; anything she can to knock her opponent out.
Most days, she emerged victorious. The sight of her standing in the center of the octagon, raising the Jalur Gemilang
on top of her head with the crowd singing her name is indeed, truly, a sight to behold.
And that's a sight we will miss.
Ann announced her retirement from the sport in a heartfelt post
on her Instagram account on Monday.
The most shocking bit about the annoucement was the fact that nobody saw it coming. And who could blame them? She's only 31 and she has five official wins under her belt, two by Knock Outs/Technical Knock Outs and two by Submission.
Many thought that she would come back stronger after her defeat to Singapore's May Ooi at the 'One Championship - Quest for Greatness' competition back in August 2017.
After all, she did prove that she could do it in the past; after losing her debut fight back in 2013, she dominantly won three straight fights, including one where she choked out Egypt's Walla Abbas Mohamed Kamaly in just two minutes and 23 seconds.
So for her to announce her retirement was rather...shocking.
A day after her announcement, we got in touch with her to find out more about her decision.
Doing What's Best For Herself
Here's something she wants every one to know: she did not retire because she can't take a beating, or because she lost a match.
The decision came because she realised she wanted to do something more, even if it means retiring from the sport she loves.
It didn't come easy, she tells us.
"My fight contract with ONE was coming to an end and I had given a lot of thought about my future plans.
"While I have had approximately four, five amazing years fighting in the ONE cage, I wanted to explore other opportunities outside the cage, including focusing on expanding my businesses.
"Hence, with a heavy heart, I've decided to retire from my pro fighting career," she says in a text message.
Her biggest regret, she tells us, is not being able to become the country's first every world champion.
"I have always wished to win a championship title and become Malaysia's first ONE world champion. Although I didn't get the chance to realise that dream, I hope to be there when they do announce Malaysia's 1st ONE world title holder."
This One Is For You, Malaysians!
Being Malaysia's first ever female pro MMA fighter, Ann has to live with the extra attention; the spotlights are always on her, her performance in the octagon is heavily scrutinised and every move she makes, well, has to be the right one.
She admits that carrying the 'Malaysia's First Ever Female Pro MMA Fighter' label has not always been easy.
"It has been an honour but also a responsibility to always bring pride to our country," she says.
We had to ask her: what will you miss the most now that you'll (probably) never step into the ring ever again, in front of thousands of proud, supportive Malaysians?
"I will definitely miss the days walking out with the Malaysian flag on my back
, and getting my hand up raised after the fight with my countrymen cheering for me in the stadium," she reminisces.
The support from her fellow Malaysians, she adds, is the biggest motivation for her to do well.
"I am forever grateful for all the support, cheers, kind messages and encouragement from everyone throughout my career. It has always been an honour to represent you, Malaysia."
What's Next For Ann Osman?
Well, if you didn't already know, Ann will be trading her gloves in for a 9-5 desk job, which is kind of ironic considering that she traded in her desk job for a pair of gloves almost five years ago.
She told us that the opportunity to become a part of ONE Championship's Athlete Relations & Development team came right after she announced her retirement.
"After informing the ONE competition team about my decision [to retire], the VP of Operations & Competition, Matt Hume, offered me the position to join his Competition team," she reveals.
According to her, she's already signed the papers and she will be reporting for duty soon, something she is very looking forward to doing.
"I am most looking forward to discovering and signing new potential talents," she quips.
Before we stopped bugging her -- she was on a river-rafting trip when the news of her retirement broke -- we had to ask her one final and very crucial question: will we ever see Ann "Athena" Osman in the octagon again?
"Never say never, there could be a possibility
; but now, I'm focused on my new role with ONE and my business endeavours."