Her somewhat nomadic nature has seen Philippines-born, England-raised fighter Natalie Gonzalez Hills travel the globe, with various motivations for the moves from country to country. This time, as she prepares for ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY on 21 April in Manila, she has spent significant time in the USA.
She sought out Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a specific focus in mind. The 29-year-old wanted to train at one of the world’s elite MMA camps, Jackson Wink MMA, under the most renowned coaches, and alongside many of the best fighters in the world of combat.
It’s not easy to leave the comfort of home behind , but Hills saw it as a necessity if she was to bring out her potential in the cage at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I still have a lot to show and I have not been able to perform at my best,” Hills revealed, coming into her bout with Gina Iniong off the back of four straight defeats.
Hitting that kind of skid would often see a fighter’s ambition wane, and with it their enthusiasm to keep improving and pushing forward. That is certainly not the case with Hills, as the expense and commitment of such a trip speaks volumes about her renewed desire to succeed with ONE Championship.
“I am not thinking about what happened before,” she states. “This is a fresh start. Some people live and die by their fights. I am learning as I go.”
Learning on the job could be one of the main reasons why she’s without a win since her professional debut. It’s a harsh way to learn, but it’s also effective. It brings out the reality of the training regime, and if it’s been lacking then it will show under the bright lights with nowhere to hide.
It takes a cerebral fighter to be self-critical, especially if the support network isn’t there to help. However, now Hills has the likes of Greg Jackson peering over her shoulder and sharing an analytical eye, so an exponential growth in both skill acquisition and refinement is expected. Hills is hoping it’s the ticket to get her back to winning ways.
“It should be interesting,” she revealed. "I am changing a lot of things, so I do not want to give to much away.”
As if the desire to feel the thrill of victory again wasn’t enough motivation, “The Kilapino” will get to do it in her country of birth, in front of thousands of fans with a shared heritage that love nothing more than seeing their compatriots succeed.
Though she does come in against a fellow Filipino fighter in Team Lakay’s Iniong, being so close to where life literally began for her will no doubt allow Hills to dig deeper into those energy reserves should it be needed.
In the crowd will be her family, and in her mind, victory. It’s almost as if the tale has been set up for a happy ending.
“It is a really good opportunity for a comeback, and it is quite a good story,” Hills concluded.