Ana Julaton is a true veteran of combat sports. As one of the few high-level boxing champions to convert to mixed martial arts, she is in the rare position of being able to extend her career across various combat sports modalities and make headlines during the journey.
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When the three-time world boxing champion first entered the world of MMA, it was with Asia-based promotion, ONE FC in 2014. As a proud Filipina from the Bay area, she relished the ability to help build the audience for both herself and the sport in Asia and fought three of her four total bouts with the promotion in the Philippines.
However, after going 2-2, Julaton ended her ONE FC career and looked towards the future in another promotion. She had already moved to the fight capital of Las Vegas and everyone wanted to know whether she would fight in the UFC, with all the cache women's MMA built from the Ronda Rousey era.
However, Julaton is a flyweight and the UFC is building its women's flyweight division currently. On December 1st at the Park Theater in Las Vegas one of the 16 women competing on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter will make UFC history as the first champion in a new 125-pound weight division. Julaton tried out for the season but was ultimately not added. Currently, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson leads the pack as the men's flyweight division champion with the most title defenses in history.
Enter Bellator MMA, and its aggressive push to be a true competitor to the UFC. As the number two promotion in the world and the backing of media superpower Viacom, Bellator has grown by leaps and bounds under the leadership of Scott Coker.
With high-level signings on the men's side, Bellator brass began banking upon its women's division and when boxing champion Heather "The Heat" Hardy (1-0) was signed by the promotion, it opened the possibilities for the future. Enter Julaton, who announced that she was signed to the promotion during the week of Canelo Alvarez vs. GGG and immediately the world pondered the matchup possibilities.
When this journalist was told personally that she would still be an active two-sport athlete and looked forward to challenges like Heather Hardy, instantly you saw not only the Julaton game plan but also that of Bellator. With her first opponent this weekend at Bellator 185 at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut being Lisa "Insane" Blaine (1-0), Bellator is giving Julaton the chance to showcase herself to a U.S. audience and build upon her previous experience.
With four MMA bouts already accomplished against world-class opponents, Julaton actually is one of the more experienced of the flyweight women's MMA fighters currently of note. Hopefully, now she will get the recognition she has earned and deserved on the main event for a fickle but hungry U.S. audience.
*Ana Julaton is the co-host of the TSL Power Hour podcast with Rhett Butler