Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor pulled off the impossible with one of the biggest events in combat sports history, a boxing match between champion stars from the MMA and Boxing worlds. Now it’s the ladies’ turn.
Ana Julaton is a women’s WBO Super Bantamweight champion and first to sign a dual contract in both sports. She will face Heather Hardy who’s WBC international title win was the first women’s fight to air on NBCSN. They meet in a “Double Date” MMA and Boxing collaboration starting next weekend at Bellator 194 on February 16th, 2018. The two women will start with an MMA bout and will meet for the second time in the boxing ring.
“Its been unique since we’re doing something for the first time, everything’s amplified”
Julaton embraces the hype, describing it as “a day in the life” explaining as soon as you become a pro athlete you become a business owner for yourself getting TV deals, sponsors, and endorsers. She’s appreciative of the current time and the people who believe Boxing and MMA fans want to tune into this rare event with Hardy. She humbly gives credit to her team, the Bellator promotion and Heather’s promoter about why she’s been given the opportunity to continue trailblazing for women.
“In combat sports to have three business parties believe in this market wise, business-wise, to give two thumbs up and be excited about it is rare.”
Ana is embracing this surge of female growth explaining that if we spoke to her five years ago she might not be as open to discussing the gender profiling that she’s experienced. One instance she shares was voicing to her team that although it was thoughtful to be rewarded with a smaller custom pink belt with diamonds, she was looking to receive the same belt that earlier belt holders like Manny Pacquiao or Vasyl Lomachenko were given. She does note that boxing has had women’s divisions and MMA is now catching up. Her boxing experience has taught her to know where she stands in the sport and she recognizes her financial earnings depend on the success of her division. It’s why she felt the need to call out Heather Hardy back in October 2017. The two women share a connection of transferring into a new sport and fresh division with lots of expectation and eyes on them.
“There isn’t a program for pro athletes to transition to MMA. There’s a reason why there’s an amateur program but I didn’t have that, my pro fights were those learning lessons. But being able to pick the minds of a Javier Mendez or Frank Mir is something special. I’m just trying to constantly learn and join them with what I learn from a Freddie Roach and make it all come together.This camp is different and I love the activity of training”
When asked about whether the tension with Heather was real Ana explained that a response to put this fight together earlier had been avoided.Once news broke of the call out we saw some “Heat” from Hardy.
“When I started boxing, within my first year of fighting she was transferring over to MMA. To me, she was a legend. She was one of the girls. I looked up at her. But not now…” -Heather Hardy response to telegraph.co.uk.
Ana saw the potential to build a story and believes the women of Bellator need to work without ceilings to get paid the same as the guys. She doesn’t think they need to be friends but needs to work together to build their exposure and rhythm to keep the flyweight division successful. She praises current champion Ilima Lei Macfarland as a prime example of what it means to be a professional female fighter by building intriguing fights like the rumoured matchup with Valerie Letourneau and representing her roots of Hawaii.
“Heather used her strengths in boxing in her first MMA fights and I’ve learned after competing for a few years now that it takes more than that. She’s a game fighter, she’s an exciting fighter. She’s another girl in the flyweight division that I get to face… TWICE. I’m looking forward to two very explosive fights”
The attention brought to this event feels similar to the Mayweather and McGregor madness and Ana feels their innovation started interest and familiarity to create a domino effect. MMA and Boxing fans continue to have an opinion on whether the two sports should mesh but Ana stays focused on securing a rematch in the boxing ring to continue breaking new ground in combat sports.
“I’ve found coaches who know the right things to say to keep me fighting and know my background and how to teach and coach me. I have these voices that are behind me so anything else anyone says I’m phasing out a bit. I understand there’s the entertainment aspect and I saw that in boxing, people get really passionate so you have to take your licks. I’m okay with the good, bad, neutral criticism I just want them to watch the fight. I’m trying to understand myself as a fighter and where I fit in MMA”
Ana Julaton vs Heather Hardy goes down on February 16th at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.