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The Igorota Fighter

by Novy Del Rosario Afidchao

By Alpine L. Killa

Inspiring stories of women around the globe triumphing over adversity and showing extreme courage in reaching their own stars are worth stories to share. These women awe the world with their determination, grace and dignity. From a housewife to a successful entrepreneur, from a textile worker into an astronaut, from nobody to a well-known celebrity, and lists of women who made their names into the headline goes on.

If there is an inspirational story to talk about, definitely one on the top list is a young Cordilleran boxer. She is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who traces her roots in Natonin, Mountain Province and Mankayan, Benguet. A fighter, Jujeath Nagaowa, known as the “Bad Girl” in the boxing and MMA ring and never gave –up on her dream to fight in the boxing ring despite the losses she encountered in her boxing career, she never felt sorry for herself; instead she learned from these and persevered.

Jujeath went through a lot to become the first Filipina fighter to sign up for the ONE Fighting Competition, the biggest MMA in Asia and to hold the Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) International Light Flyweight Title.

Girls are drawn in watching princess’s stories, but not for Jujeath, who at young age found deep interest in watching combative sports. Never did she imagine that she will have the personal experience of fighting in the boxing ring.

In 2006, while enrolled as a Development Communication freshman at Benguet State University, Jujeath registered in a private gym- the Highland Boxing Gym in La Trinidad.  She enrolled for physical fitness and to boost her self-esteem. She didn’t have any plans to sign up for hand-to-hand combat match. Yet, after three months of training, she decided to give it a try and signed up for an invitation of Muai Thai competition in Manila. The power punches and technical skills she learned in her trainings thrilled and inspired her to become an athlete and chose boxing as her ideal sport.  Her first international boxing match in 2008 in Thailand was not successful. But still, she still felt that she’s a winner- bringing home with her the respect, admiration and words of inspiration from the crowd. She fell in love with the game of boxing and wanted to learn the art and skill of this game. She managed to balance her time on her studies, time for her family and friends and for her trainings.

During her third year in college, she decided to pursue her boxing career. She worked hard and made up for her lost time in education to excel in boxing sport. “Bad Girl” finally brought home success, name and honour. Her first taste of victory is a boxing match against Saemi Hanagata in a unanimous decision in 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.

Most of her fights were overseas, in Japan, Hongkong, Thailand, and Australia which provides the bonuses for her to visit foreign lands. Signing in this fight would mean that her finances would be from her own purse, yet, there is no turning back for this young boxer. Boxing for her is not only throwing punches, it is a sport that she truly loves. It helped her to be physically fit and healthy. It boosted her self-esteem. It made her a better person. It taught her the price of perseverance, commitment and love to one’s work or profession. It has been a part of who she is.

Over the past eight years of her boxing career, Jujeath has fought more than two dozen fights, earning a win-loss-draw record of 13-16-1.  Of the 13 wins, she defeated her opponent with eight knock outs and five unanimous decisions in favour of her. Losing in some of her fights, Jujeath became stronger and more determined. “ Kahit na natalo ako sa ibang boxing matches na sinalihan ko, pakiramdam ko ay winner ako.  Nakakataba ng puso at nagsisilbi kasi na inspiration sa akin ang mga appreciation and words of encouragement ng mga nakapanood sa akinglaban,” Jujeath added.

In 2014, Jujeath did not only make a name in the boxing ring, but instantly gained popularity in the field of mixed martial arts being the first Filipina to fight in a match hosted by One Fighting Championship, Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts organization. She made an MMA debut when she defeated her opponent, Jeet Toshi – a seven –time kickboxing titlist from India where she is considered the pioneer for female MMA.

Jujeath proved that her first success in MMA was not a fluke. Jujeath’s opponent, Sam Tharoth “Little Frog” of Cambodia suffered from an agonizing defeat in the ONE Fighting Championships’ “Warrior Way” fight card in Manila in 2014.

She made a classic come back in her boxing career in 2015 after she crushed her Chinese foe Lou Yu Jie in Macau for the WIBA International Light Flyweight Title. Jujeath fought Lou with a series of upper cut as well as powerful left and right hooks in the entire 10 rounds to score a unanimous decision win.

Jujeath who will be turning 29 in September 2016 said that she gave herself time to pursue her boxing and MMA career until she reached the age of 30. “One of my ultimate dreams is to have my own gym and train female fighters if luck permits,” she shared. When asked what she would name her gym, she eagerly answered “Bad Girl’s Powerhouse.” She believes that there are many strong and talented female fighters especially in the Cordillera, and she hopes that they will also pursue their fighting career and make a name in this sport.

Although her parents don’t often tell her, she knows that they are proud of her, especially her father Wansen who has always been supportive since the day she decided to fight. Her mother, Jean, who worries a lot when she gets into fight, hopes and prays that her daughter will always be safe.

This Cordilleran female fighter hopes that her personal story will inspire others that nothing is impossible in achieving one’s dream in life. They need to be brave and have faith in their selves to pursue their career. For Jujeath, being a champion does not only count on the belt she collected in the boxing ring and the wins she recorded in the MMA fights, but having the courage to face her downfalls and strive for bigger and better things. That for her is a champion.

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