How Malaysian MMA fighter Ann Osman tore down barriers

They say there is a first for everything but, even then by those standards, there is no denying Ann Osman has been a pioneer in her homeland.

On Oct. 18, 2013, Osman became Malaysia's first female professional mixed martial arts fighter when she made her ONE FC debut at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It may not have been the most auspicious of starts as she lost to Sherilyn Lim on split decision, although she refused to let that deter her.

Within 17 months, Osman claimed victories over Ana Julaton, Aya Saber and Walaa Abbas to gain even more prominence, not just in the world of MMA, but also in Malaysia.

Coming from a traditionally conservative country, the 30-year-old has swiftly swept aside stereotypes and social barriers on what women can, or should, be doing.

It all started when Ann walked into a gym years ago and had her interest piqued in Muay Thai. Her passion for the martial art gradually grew and eventually led her to MMA.

She has previously spoken of her pride at representing Malaysia and is saddened when people view MMA as a sport for men only, although she has gone some way in rectifying that notion.

Now, Osman not only continues to fight in ONE Championship (which ONE FC was rebranded as in 2015), but also juggles two businesses -- a fitness centre and a recreational adventure company -- and is a corporate and motivational speaker.

While she now has her hands full with her business ventures, Ann has not given up on her MMA career.

She suffered defeat to Irina Mazepa in October of 2015 but bounced back by defeating Haiat Farag Youssef in July. In her most recent fight, Osman lost to April Osenio via submission in September. That dropped her record to 4-3, but Osman views her losses as lessons that actually have helped propel her further forward.

Whether she intended to be one when she started out her journey, the native of Sabah has become a role model for many females in Asia who may still be battling to realise their true identities in still-conservative societies.

As for the advice she would give someone hoping to follow in her footsteps?

Be prepared to work hard, stay humble and listen to coaches; never give up and be brave enough to compete; learn from past fights and always aim higher.