This fight came with a lot of struggles. I was disappointed to not have fought at all last month but with some personal and physical struggles, it all worked out for the best.
I returned back to training soon after my last fight thinking there would be a fight around the corner. Unfortunately due to the wait list of girls at Bangla Stadium, my fight was to be delayed. It was a fair decision given I had gotten to fight 3 times in May.
I’ve not spent this long preparing for a fight and once we realised there was no fight in the immediate future, we slowed down my training and little. 1 week of hard fight training – 1 week of more relaxed training – followed by a final 10 days of hard fight training.
During these weeks, I was beginning to suffer the familiar tell tale signs of my signature injury – the good old stress fracture. I have been running consistently all year, building up the number of times I run and the length of my runs slowly to avoid this happening. Fortunately my physio back in Australia has been very open to me emailing him and asking him for advice. By the time the stress fracture was becoming evident, I had already put in some long hard hours and was determined to get a fight in and not have all my hard work go to waste. What did this mean for the remainder of my training camp? No running. No skipping. Clinching but no leg sweeps. Light sparring and no right kicks on pads 😦
There was a significant concern as to my general fitness and preparation leading into this fight, but luckily enough, my trainer Nai, trained me around all these injuries and trashed me hard. Instead of the usual 5 rounds on pads, I was often doing 7 rounds. I was getting the opportunity to spar and clinch with the trainers to ensure all my activities were controlled. All in all – it’s probably one of the toughest fight preps I’ve done since I’ve been here, despite being injured.
Now of course, what would a fight camp be without getting sick. 2 days before my fight I was laid up in bed with a fever, thrashing every home remedy I could think of. Kale, carrot, ginger and turmeric shakes – eating garlic cloves raw – cutting open onions to soak up the germs in my room – and overdosing on Vitamin C. I don’t quite know which of these things had worked, but somehow I was back to about 80% come fight day.
I had already been warned that my opponent was a very well known Thai who had an enormous amount of experience and who was going to be exceptional. Training involved a lot of specific training around the clinch and around throwing fatal knees. Ironically enough, the thing that I had no experience in 6 months ago, has now turned into one of my biggest strengths in the ring – the clinch.
Surprisingly, I was not nervous about my fight at all – until we got to the stadium and my trainer had a little panic when he saw my opponent. “Gemma! She very good!” Thanks Nai – I know. Please stop telling me this!!
As I was being prepared for my fight, I just felt this wave of calm. I was happy. Win or lose, I was just so happy. Happy to be here. Happy to be fighting. Happy to have a massive challenge set for me. No fear. No nerves. Nothing to lose.
Round 1 progressed as it always does – my trainer in the corner signalling for me to go slowly. Namwan comes out strong with some amazing combinations. She hits me and hits me hard. Her speed is something I have not yet dealt with. By the time my brain had processed her punching me, I was being kicked… and then kicked again. Holy sh*t.
Round 2 continues on in this fashion. I am getting belted with hard punches and kicks that I don’t even see coming. I am trying to throw and counter, but she is always out of reach and when I do finally land something, she blocks me every time. I was pretty eager for the round to be over to see what my corner had to say. I was, without a shadow of a doubt, losing.
Round 2 always seems to be the round of self doubt. I remember sitting down in the corner thinking to myself, “I don’t know how to beat her. She’s so much faster than me. Even if I used everything I know too, I don’t think I can win”.
When I turn around, there is half the Sinbi entourage in my corner, including the boss man himself, Sing. Everyone is trying to give me advice and in a pinch, every one stops and turns to Sing. “It’s time to clinch”.
One thing I will say – getting into the clinch when someone is backing quickly away from you – it’s not so easy. This is pretty much how round 3 went on. I pushed forward, trying to force a clinch but Namwan did not want a bar to do with it. She had started catching me off kicks and knees and eventually takes me down.
After round 3 I was beginning to think that a miracle was needed for me to salvage a win but when I turned to return to my corner, everyone was happy, hands in the air, grins across faces. My trainer comes to me saying “yes yes yes! Very good! Very good”. I guess they see something I don’t.
Round 4 begins and I am charging for a clinch. I noticed she is tired and constantly on the back foot. She is throwing fewer kicks and is trying to throw knock out bombs. Again I am caught and taken down and I am beginning to worry. Nevertheless, I push forward and force her into the clinch against the ropes. This girl is not interested in clinching with me at all! Every time I go to lock, she is pushing and backing away, head down and out – a big no no. In hindsight – WHY DIDN’T I KNEE HER IN THE HEAD??? Anyway…
I turn to my corner after the bell sounds and my trainer is off his head with joy. “You win! You win! You win for sure!” Ummmmm….. What???? She’s out striking me. She’s taken me down twice. What am I missing here.
Sing pops his head back and says to me “you keep moving forward and don’t stop. If you do this you will win for sure. When we say, you stop fighting”.
I will never claim to fully understand Muay Thai scoring, but what I do know, is that these guys know Muay Thai. I trust my corner and know that every time I do as they ask, I walk away with a win.
Round 5 begins and Namwan’s gas tank is empty. She is literally running away. I managed to corner her and back her into the ropes a few times to get her in the clinch and I was really starting to do some damage. The referee asked her 3 times in the first minute, if she was ok to continue. Every time she said yes, and every time she got up and ran away. I look up to my corner who are signalling me to stop. I am just thinking “really? That’s enough?”
I stopped fighting – but there was a part of me that wondered – what if they got it wrong? What if I have lost and now I have really lost. It felt like a lifetime of me, in that ring, dancing around not even attempting to fight. Namwan catches her breath and moves forward. Her kicks are slow and easy to block and the corner is just telling me to teep her away.
After the final bell sounds – my corner is ecstatic. Everyone jumping up and down telling me I’ve won. I was just standing there saying “are you sure?? Are you sure?” They tell me to turn around the referee is signalling the win to my corner!
If I had lost this fight, I would have been happy. Happy to have gone up against a girl who had already stepped in the ring 170 times. To get a victory – I was shocked – and completely over the moon.
My old coach used to tell me you never forget your first win – but I tell you what – every time I come in as the underdog and the betters are placing bets against me before I even get in the ring. The odds are stacked in my favour and I am walking away with good results. These are the wins I will always remember.
A massive thank you to my sponsors – Pure Energy, Elite Combat Nutrition, and Absolute MMA. You continue to make my journey possible. And to all the love and support from my family a friends – constant and never ending. I am eternally grateful.
Professional Record 7-1-0