Fil-Chinese fighter Ramona Pascual is taking the Hong Kong MMA scene by storm, and she’s breaking stereotypes in the process.
Born in the US and raised in Hong Kong, Pascual’s road into MMA was anything but conventional. She got into Muay Thai simply looking for a way to break a sweat. And throughout college, she juggled Muay Thai training with another passion: playing rugby.
After graduating, she kicked things up a notch and pursued both competitively. Before she knew it, she had won five straight Muay Thai bouts and earned a spot on Hong Kong’s national rugby team, all the while holding down a full-time job. Pascual was on an all-time high, but a serious injury sent her momentum crashing down.
Pascual suffered an ACL injury in her knee, and both her Muay Thai and rugby plans were derailed indefinitely. Unable to pursue her two passions, she turned to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) as a means of staying active while in recovery mode. But as usual for Pascual, this hobby grew into an obsession. Before long, she began winning tournaments in and out of Hong Kong, including a gold medal in the absolute division of the 2015 Abu Dhabi games.
With her knee healed up and with her addiction for Muay Thai and BJJ at full tilt, she did the unthinkable: She left her secure job in finance to pursue MMA.
“That year, I quit my job and decided, ‘F*ck it. I’m just gonna train,'” she says. She hasn’t looked back since, and now she’s an undefeated fighter who’s set to fight for a IMPI World Series title.
Unlike many fighters who begin competing in MMA in their early 20s, Pascual only went pro at 27. She’s now 28 years old and about to fight for just the third time in her career. She’s a late bloomer of sorts, but to her, starting late has its advantages.
“I’m 28 now. For me, that’s quite an older age with a lot of my competition out there who have started their careers a lot younger,” she shares. “But because I’ve gone through a lot already, I’m a more mature fighter than I was when I started training at 22,” she says. “It gives me an advantage as well when I approach my fight preparation.”
Age isn’t the only area where Pasual defies convention. In Hong Kong, the notion of women competing in MMA isn’t that widely accepted yet, unlike in the US, where fighters like Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate are well-known. However, Pascual hopes to lead the charge for women in the Hong Kong MMA scene and women in general, setting a precedent on how to go after what you want.
“I feel like so many people underestimate women or a lot of women underestimate themselves,” says Pascual. “And that’s kind of the roadblock that’s stopping them from the things that they want to do, or it’s the roadblock keeping them from reaching their potential. And I’m not just talking about MMA or sports, but about careers and families as well.”
At the end of the day, Pascual hopes that women don’t allow convention or circumstances to stop them from pursuing their dreams. “To know that you did what you could and to reach the level that you can be proud of, that’s better than growing old and just telling yourself you wish you could have done something.”
Written by Mike Miguel
Edited by Gabriel Pangalangan
Photo Courtesy of Ramona Pascual/IMPI World Series