This Saturday, Singapore’s first female mixed martial artist, Nicole Chua, makes her pro MMA debut at ONE Fighting Championship 3: “War of the Lions” at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang. Chua faces multi-time kickboxing champion Jeet Toshi in ONE FC’s inaugural women’s bout.
Chua has fought extensively in Muay Thai in recent years and she trains with one of Asia’s premier gyms, Evolve MMA. As a full-time accountant, Chua must balance her career with a demanding training schedule, but she feels that she is fully prepared for any scenario in her fight this weekend.
MMARising.com: Thank you very much for taking time out from training for this interview, Nicole. To begin, could you talk a bit about how you were first drawn to martial arts, and specifically Muay Thai, when you were growing up in Singapore?
Nicole Chua: Sure. I started training in martial arts when I was 18 years old. I was looking for a new and challenging activity, and my uncle introduced me to Muay Thai. I fell in love with the sport immediately, and started training as often as possible. Once I joined Evolve MMA, I decided to take it even further and started training in BJJ and MMA. Martial arts are now a very big part of my life and I am very grateful that I get to train with the best in the world at Evolve. I was initially drawn to martial arts as a way to stay fit and learn some self-defense, but now it is so much more. It is a lifestyle.
MMARising.com: Was your whole family supportive of you when you first began training and competing in Muay Thai?
Nicole Chua: Yes, my family has always been supportive of me pursuing my dreams and passions. As I mentioned, it was my uncle who introduced me to the sport, and I have had a great amount of support from my entire family.
MMARising.com: When you first started out, was it easy for you to find quality training in Singapore or did it take some time to find a strong team (like Evolve) and training partners that worked best with you?
Nicole Chua: At first, it wasn’t always easy and I had to make do with what was available. I was very fortunate to find Evolve MMA, and since then my training has been amazing. Chatri [Sityodtong] and the rest of the Evolve family have really helped me a lot in improving my Muay Thai and transitioning into MMA. I believe we have one of the strongest teams in the world at Evolve, and finding training partners is never an issue there. Everyone works so well together and is so supportive.
MMARising.com: For those who may not be familiar with your background in Muay Thai, how many fights have you had to date and what is your professional Muay Thai record?
Nicole Chua: I’m 8-4 as a professional Muay Thai fighter, with most of my fights being in Thailand.
MMARising.com: On March 31, you are scheduled to make your pro MMA debut at ONE FC 3 in Singapore. As the first female mixed martial artist in your country’s history, what does this opportunity mean to you and what made you first want to compete in MMA?
Nicole Chua: It is a great honor and I am very proud to be able to represent Singapore, Evolve MMA and aspiring female mixed martial artists in Asia. There is some pressure and it is a great responsibility, but I am prepared and confident in my abilities. There are not yet many women in Singapore doing MMA, but I hope that I will lead the way and inspire more women to compete.
I have always had an interest in MMA and a desire to train in all of the disciplines of martial arts. After meeting Chatri and getting exposure to all that Evolve offers, I knew that MMA was what I wanted to do. Muay Thai is great, and it serves as an excellent base for my transition into MMA, but I am really enjoying learning the other aspects of the game like BJJ and wrestling. My goal is to become a true mixed martial artist and to be proficient in all disciplines.
MMARising.com: As you have made the transition from a striker only into a well-rounded mixed martial artist, which fighting discipline has been the most challenging for you to learn and perfect? You mentioned wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Have those come naturally to you?
Nicole Chua: They all present their own unique challenges, but I wouldn’t say that any one in particular has been harder than the other. Luckily, I have the best instructors in the world in each discipline to work with every day. Working with the world champion instructors at Evolve makes the learning process a lot easier and faster.
Nicole Chua training at Evolve MMA in Singapore. (Photo Credit: Evolve MMA)
MMARising.com: You have been training with Evolve MMA for over two years now and it is regarded as one of the premier gyms in all of Asia. How beneficial has this training been and what are the most important lessons and techniques that you have learned during your time there?
Nicole Chua: It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Training at Evolve and being a part of the team there is about so much more than just learning martial arts techniques. I have learned about life, and can honestly say that through my training there I am a better person. Training in martial arts has taught me about discipline, focus, teamwork, sacrifice, and many other tools that cross over into all aspects of my life.
MMARising.com: Has it been difficult for you to balance a full-time accounting career with six days of MMA training at Evolve every week? Do all of your co-workers know that you are a fighter?
Nicole Chua: Yes, I manage to work a full-time job and train full-time as well. It is not always easy and takes a great deal of discipline, but I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way. I am also very grateful and fortunate that my employer supports me by allowing for a flexible working schedule so that I can attend the Evolve Fighter’s Program. I train in the mornings and afternoons at the Evolve Fighter’s Program. In between training sessions, I work at my day job.
MMARising.com: Your ONE FC opponent this weekend, Jeet Toshi, is also a talented striker and she is a seven-time kickboxing champion in her native India. What are your thoughts on facing Jeet in the first women’s bout in ONE FC’s history?
Nicole Chua: Jeet is a very tough opponent, and I have great respect for her. I am focused on myself. I believe that I am ready, and I am fully confident in my abilities. I have been training for this for a long time, have had a great training camp, and work with some of the best in the world every day. I look forward to giving the fans in Singapore a great performance.
MMARising.com: Jeet recently won her pro MMA debut in India and she will have a height and weight advantage over you when you fight. Do you feel that this will pose any problems for you at all or are you prepared for any scenario once the fight begins?
Nicole Chua: I am prepared for any scenario. We have left no stone unturned in training at Evolve. I do not believe there is anywhere in the world that has more martial arts experience under one roof than Evolve.
MMARising.com: ONE FC has quickly become one of the leading MMA promotions in Asia and it has partnerships with other organisations throughout the continent. Do you foresee a long-term future for yourself in ONE FC or would you like to compete in other areas of the world as well?
Nicole Chua: I am not thinking that far ahead at the moment. I am focused only on my upcoming fight. I am grateful for the opportunity that ONE FC has given me, and am honoured to be a part of their show.
MMARising.com: In North America, the 48-kilogram/105-pound women’s division is beginning to develop, but many of the top female fighters in the weight class still compete in Japan. Do you follow the division closely and are there any specific opponents that you hope to one day face?
Nicole Chua: I try to keep up with MMA and all of the top female fighters. I like to watch all of the divisions, both men and women, but I don’t have any specific opponents in mind.
MMARising.com: What is your primary goal for your new career as a mixed martial artist in 2012 and where do you hope to be in the sport one year from now?
Nicole Chua: My primary goal right now is to win on March 31st. I really can’t look past that at the moment. I want to be in mixed martial arts for a long time, and look forward to competing as much as possible in the future.
MMARising.com: Do you have any messages that you would like to send out to fans from around the world who will see you compete for the first time at ONE FC 3?
Nicole Chua: Yes. Thank you all for the support, and I will do my best to give you a great performance.
MMARising.com thanks Nicole for her time for this interview. She faces Jeet Toshi this Saturday, March 31st, at ONE FC 3 in Singapore. The event will stream live on YouTube.com.
(Top Photo Credit: Evolve MMA)