While the course of her career would change that night, Jihin was not sure what to expect when she was first offered the chance to face the Indian atomweight contender.
“When my coach [Melvin Yeoh] told me that we received an offer to compete in ONE Championship, it felt as though it was just one of the moments in my career where he tells me, ‘Oh, you’ve got a fight coming up, you should get ready,’” the Johor Bahru native recalls.
“It didn’t quite hit me until I went back and told myself, ‘Okay, this is going to be something different.’
“I signed with ONE towards the end of 2017, and I was glad to finally be able to make my debut. I was waiting for that moment for a long time, and to receive the offer to fight in my home country made it more special to me.”
To get ready for her bout, the Malaysian went through a difficult training camp in which she worked on a number of different styles.
Meanwhile, Yeoh spent hours studying Tomar’s skills and formed a well-tailored strategy that would allow the “Shadow Cat” to start her promotional run with a victory.
“At that point in my career, I’d say it was one of the most tiring camps I’ve ever had,” Jihin confesses. “Despite that, our preparation went well, and I arrived in Kuala Lumpur in good shape.”
Since Jihin was still adapting to life as a professional mixed martial artist, the final days before her first ONE appearance were all part of a brand new experience.
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The “Shadow Cat” had to participate in media sessions while honing her craft alongside the other athletes in a makeshift training facility at their hotel.
On the event day, Jihin was feeling good until the moment her walkout song began to play inside the Axiata Arena. At that point, the reality of the incredible moment really kicked in.
“Of course, the excitement was there, but I think I was feeling very nervous as it was my first time fighting in a large arena surrounded by thousands of people,” she says.
“When I heard my music play and it was time to walk out, I started feeling even more nervous. I’m quite an emotional girl and wanted to cry too, but I told myself I had to pull myself together and stay calm.”
Fortunately, that state of uncertainty didn’t last long.
Once the “Shadow Cat” heard the door of the Circle shut, she knew it was her time to shine.
In front of her home fans, the Malaysian quickly lived up to the hype, impressing with strong striking and an effective ground game in the opening stanza.
“My coach told me exactly what Tomar was going to do, and thankfully, everything came out as planned. The plan was to bring her down to the ground and try to avoid her side kicks,” Jihin says.
“At the end of the first round, [my coach] told me that I have to come out with the same plan, but with a better [attempt] at finishing her.”
Just moments into round two, Jihin threw a kick and slipped to the canvas.
But the Malaysian quickly recovered. She immediately went for a takedown, put “The Cyclone” on her back, and secured a tight armbar. Despite locking the submission in, the Indian battled out of it.
“She was tough, refusing to tap from an initial armbar I had set up,” Jihin says. “However, I saw the opening for a transition, and went for a triangle choke.”
Tomar could not escape the triangle choke and was forced to tap at the 2:23 mark of the second frame.
Following her victory, the “Shadow Cat” felt a surge of energy from the crowd, who chanted “Jihin! Jihin! Jihin!” as her arm was raised.
“It was simply unbelievable, to get a submission win in Malaysia during my debut. I think you cannot dream of a better start to your career than that,” she says.
“The win gave me a belief in myself. I think if results went the other way, it could have gone on to be a very different start to my career in ONE Championship.”