Ann Osman : Out of the Gladiators' Cage into the Business Jungle


Ann Osman: Out of the Gladiators' Cage into the Business Jungle

Malaysia’s first ever female MMA fighter now turned entrepreneur Ann Osman has hung up her fight gloves early to focus on her outdoor adventure company. She speaks to AWANI Review about her time in industry and how it has shaped who she is today.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that involves striking and subduing your opponent into submission. Although, MMA is still relatively new in Malaysia, it’s without a doubt quickly evolved and become a well-loved sports entertainment.

Amongst the Malaysian stars fighting their way to the top of ONE Championship is former tourism marketing manager turned MMA athlete and now businesswoman, Nur Ain Osman or otherwise known as Ann ‘Athena’ Osman.

You think about surviving when you’re in the cage. I fight best when I’m calm and happy.

“You think about surviving when you’re in the cage. I fight best when I’m calm and happy.”

“My coach (AJ 'Pyro' Lias Mansor) always advised me to find my Zen, meaning you can’t be overwhelmed or underwhelmed.” 

“Once you’ve signed the dotted line to accept a fight, we immediately dive into an eight-week intense fight camp and train every day.”

“We do our homework by researching on our opponent and finding out their weaknesses,” states Ann.

The 5’3 Sabahan strides in to Astro AWANI's office with a big smile on her face, politely introducing herself with a firm handshake. Cautious of her slightly visible baby bump, the mother-to-be seems to be in excellent shape.

Which comes as a surprise, when she confesses that she can’t resist banana leaf rice, a South Indian Cuisine that has always been Ann’s go-to cheat meal. 

“I’m six months into my pregnancy but I still train in whatever way I can. It's hard to take that away from me.”

“I want to see my family grow, still take part in the sport and also see my business thrive,” says the 33-year old.

Ann runs a travel and outdoor company Xtreme Paddlers, offering white water rafting services in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. She co-founded the company with her husband. And despite her retirement as professional MMA athlete in 2017, Ann is still part of the ONE Championship team by taking on the role of scouting new talents on the market. 

Managing a business while still pursuing her fighting career required utmost discipline and heavy training, says Ann. But over time, juggling both passions took a toll on her.

“My biggest challenge was managing my time and energy because I would train almost every day of the week. Therefore, I couldn’t tackle the business hands-on.”

“It was putting a strain on me. I’ve had my time in the cage and I felt like it was time to explore other things,” she says.

I’ve had my time in the cage and I felt like it was time to explore other things

Prior to throwing punches and swinging kicks, Ann worked as a marketing manager for five years in the tourism industry in Sabah. The adventure junkie says apart from growing her business, she wants to help boost tourism in the state.

Walking away after six glorious years in the fighting industry with a nine-fight - five-four (win-loss) professional fight record - Ann embodies a new face of female fighters. She is Malaysia’s first female mixed martial arts fighter to be signed to ONE Championship. She also grabbed the nation’s attention by being the first Muslim female athlete to ever compete.

She reminisces about her time as a professional MMA fighter. According to Ann, one fight consists of five rounds and the duration of one round is five minutes long.

“Five minutes may seem like a short amount of time but when you’re in that cage, it feels like forever, everything slows down.”

“The only thing that goes through my mind is the game strategy and what I need to do to land that first punch,” she adds.

Growing up, she attended Sekolah Menengah Sains Sabah and as a child, had always imagined becoming a doctor some day. One of the reasons Ann decided to pursue martial arts was to learn self-defence, following a harrowing incident where she was tailgated by a group of rowdy men.

“I had just finished a meeting with a client and this huge pickup truck just started honking at me. I was scared for my life.”

Until this day, Ann thanks martial arts for building shaping her into the person she is today. 

“They followed me. And in that moment, I realised that if any of them were to attack me I wouldn’t know how to defend myself.”

“That really provoked me step into the gym and learn how to fight.”

Until this day, Ann thanks martial arts for  shaping her into the person she is today. 

“People still consider it a male sport but there are just as many females training in the gym.”

“I understand that it may look violent but there’s so much more to martial arts than just fighting. It teaches you the skills, values, discipline and to become a more confident when engaging in physical activities. It is good for your overall mental health,” says Ann.