April Osenio knows the pressure is on as she returns to action at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD.
The Team Lakay standout takes on Chinese contender “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan (12-1) in Bangkok, looking to score an impressive victory and position herself as a potential contender for the vacant ONE Strawweight WOrld Championship.
The Filipina star has been away from the ONE Championship cage since her loss to Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang, and says fans should expect an improved version when she steps back into active competition on 9 December.
“It has been a while since fans last saw me in the cage,” she said.
“I would say I have not changed a lot, I have just been working on improving my skills.
“My style is still the same. I focus on my wushu, and really want to test my opponent’s striking abilities. I am excited to show everyone how much better I am this time around.”
The 23-year-old looked to be on course for victory against Huang in her last outing back in December 2016, but succumbed to a second-round gogoplata. The rarely-seen submission led to Huang being given the nickname of “Lady GoGo”, and she even went on to challenge Angela Lee for the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title.
The loss, and the subsequent path of her opponent, stung Osenio, who admitted that it took her some time to get over the defeat.
“That one definitely hurt. It took me a while to get over that loss, and I had to pick up the pieces after some time,” she said.
“But with the help of my team and my coach, I went back to training, and now I am more focused than ever.”
That focus will be essential against 29-year-old Xiong, a top-rated Chinese prospect with a record of 12-1 and a background in professional boxing. Her striking skills are also backed up with a dangerous submission game, having captured the China Open BJJ crown.
Nonetheless, Osenio says she’s ready to face the significant challenge ahead of her.
“I cannot say that I have seen much footage of her (Xiong’s) past bouts, but I heard from reports that she is very strong and skillful,” Osenio said.
“This makes my preparation for this next match crucial, because I want to show the world that I can hang with the best.”
She certainly has a strong group of teammates to lean on in that regard. Osenio has sharpened her skills at the renowned Team Lakay gym alongside the a host of stars. But she said she’d been particularly helped by ONE Championship contenders Gina Iniong, Joshua Pacio, Danny Kingad, and Geje Eustaquio.
“It is so important that we help each other improve, because we can a lot from our experiences, especially championship bout experience.”
Despite their undoubted credentials, Team Lakay has struggled somewhat inside the ONE Championship cage of late, with some of their high-profile stars suffering notable losses. Osenio says the time has come for her to step up and get the team back to winning ways.
“There is a lot of pressure on me to win, to show that Team Lakay is still one of the top teams in Asia despite our recent setbacks,” she stated.
“Although we have had some heartbreaking losses in our past few bouts, our team remains dedicated to representing the Philippines in the best way possible.”
As well as the pressure of winning for her team, Osenio knows that her own career trajectory may well hinge on the outcome of her bout on 9 December.
“It has been a year since my last match, and I have been really working on sharpening my skills and fixing a lot of my weaknesses,” she explained.
“This next bout is so important, because my opponent is one of China’s best martial artists, and a win will really speak volumes of where I am at as a professional.
“This is one of the toughest training camps I have ever had so far, and I am ready to showcase the results in Bangkok.”