After shocking the world in her ONE Championship debut, Filipino atomweight Jomary Torres returns to action at ONE: HERO’S DREAM in Yangon, Myanmar, on 3 November looking to follow up on the biggest performance of her martial arts career.
When Torres stepped into the ONE Championship cage earlier this year against rising Thai star Rika ‘Tinydoll’ Ishige, few predicted the outcome, as Torres came back from a tough opening round to drop, then submit, her more highly-touted opponent.
“After the match, I was happy, but I did not know what to do. Do I celebrate or do I cry?” she recalled. “I was really surprised because I did not expect the outcome. It was the first stoppage of my career.”
Competing under the bright lights of a major event can often disorientate and fluster first-timers, and it took Torres a round to find her feet.
Ishige bossed the opening stanza, but things turned in the second when she experienced a moment of clarity that allowed her to throw her techniques more freely.
“My opponent was right in front of me, and all the people who supported me were all there,” she remembered. “I got her with a good punch and I pounced. I kept waiting for the ref to stop the bout, but he did not.”
With the contest still running even though she believed it should have been stopped, Torres improvised. She locked up a modified rear-naked choke that forced Ishige to tap out. It was the Thai athlete’s first career defeat.
“They (my team) asked me where that choke move came from, because it surprised them,” she said. “I told them I surprised myself, too!”
It was a landmark moment for a martial artist who was only making her second professional appearance.
She fell into competitive martial arts almost by accident. Working as a nanny, she met Ruel Catalan, who introduced Torres to his brother, multiple time wushu world champion Rene Catalan, who invited her to his Catalan Fighting Systems gym.
“Coach Rene invited me and gave me an offer to consider. I tried training, and I have been there ever since,” she recalled. “I was a bit fat before. I only got fit here.”
After taking the career-defining decision to quit being a nanny and focus her energies on becoming a full-time martial artist, she was quickly presented with her first competitive match in August 2016.
She won by unanimous decision, and kickstarted a career that has propelled her onto the big stage with ONE Championship.
“I trained for two months, and was surprised when I was told by my coach that I would be competing,” she said. “I took on the challenge so that I could experience a real match, and thankfully, I won.”
Now known as ‘The Zamboanginian Fighter’, a moniker that pays tribute to her home town of Zamboanga City, Torres is determined not only to succeed in the ONE Championship cage, but to use her successes in martial arts to pay tribute to her grandmother, who brought her up when her parents abandoned her as an infant.
“I want to help my grandmother,” she says. “I want to give back to my gym, and the people who love and support me. I am competing for my country. Everything I do is for all of them, and as long as I can do this, I will keep doing this.”
Torres’ next challenge sees her return to action against Nita Dea in Myanmar, looking to follow up her signature win over Ishige with another impressive win as she bids to move up the ranks of the ONE atomweight division.
Despite identifying her opponent as a striker, Torres says she’s prepared for every eventuality, wherever the bout goes.
“From what I saw, I think she is a striker,” she said. “She does not seem to hit the ground all that much. I am prepared to go toe-to-toe or take the match to the ground, wherever I think I have the advantage.”