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How Jorina Baars Brought Her Childhood Dream To Life

This coming Saturday, 16 November, Jorina “Jojo” Baars will enter the ONE Championship ring as one of the greatest pound-for-pound strikers on the planet.

The Dutch kickboxer will make her promotional debut against Christina Breuer at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS in Beijing, China this weekend, and she plans to showcase the skills that have taken her to an incredible unbeaten record of 46-0-3.

Baars has mostly competed in the West — particularly in Europe and the United States of America — so she sees her upcoming match-up inside the Cadillac Arena as the perfect opportunity to formally announce her arrival to the fans of Asia.

Now, just days away from her first appearance in The Home Of Martial Arts, learn all about the 31-year-old kickboxing sensation.

An Idyllic Childhood

Baars was born in Den Helden, Netherlands, where she lived with her parents and younger brother.

The naval town occupies the coast of the North Holland peninsula, and it was an idyllic spot for her to grow up.

“It’s a quiet place where I live. There are lots of very good places to visit — you can go to the beach, or you can go to the city where it’s a bit busier. Everything that you want, you can get it here,” she explains.

“I spent most of my time outside with my friends. We played football, climbed trees, and did stuff like that.”

Baars had a tight-knit family and, even though her parents separated when she was 12, she was still close with her father, a firefighter, and her mother, who worked in administration at the local naval base.

“Jojo” worked hard in school and stayed out of trouble, mostly because she wanted to spend all of her free time perfecting her kickboxing skills.

I was a good student. I worked very hard because I wanted to train every evening,” she recalls. “I did my homework at school when I had an hour free at lunchtime so I could go to the gym.”

The Childhood Dream

Baars began her kickboxing journey at the age of seven. She had tried other sporting competitions, but she followed her friends to a class and never looked back.

“I tried lots of sports before — aikido, soccer, tennis, basketball — a bit of everything, but when I was seven, some kids at my school asked me to go watch their kickboxing class,” she says.

“I said, ‘No, I want to try it.’ I tried it, and I loved it. I still love it. I don’t know why, but it just kind of felt right. I thought it was amazing.

“The coach asked me why a little girl at seven wanted to start training kickboxing. I told him I wanted to be a champion. He said to me, ‘Well, start training first, little girl.”

Following that initial session, Baars started to train consistently.

“Jojo” had her first official bout five years later, and she quickly garnered a reputation as a fierce competitor in her homeland.

“When I was 12, I had my first fight, which was for the Dutch Open Championship. I won the tournament and became the Dutch champion in the youth classes. The feeling of winning and success was great,” she explains.

“When I was 15 years old, there were no other girls to fight me — they didn’t want to fight me — so I went to the seniors.

“Normally in the Netherlands, you can go to the seniors when you are 16, now it’s up to 18. But when I was 15, I had my first senior fight, and then I said, ‘Okay, now I want to become World Champion in the adult classes.”

Taking Motivation From Loss

ISKA Welterweight World Champion Jorina Baars practices a body kick

Everything was going perfectly for the burgeoning Dutch sensation — until tragedy struck her family.

On April 15th, 2006, she won a European title match with her father in the crowd. The following day, he was admitted to hospital, and by the 17th, he had sadly passed away. 

“I was only 17. I think you really need both of your parents at that age, but he passed away from one day to the next,” Baars reveals.

“After that had happened, I said, ‘Okay, I don’t want to fight anymore.’ I didn’t want to train anymore, and I just went out with my friends to have fun.”

However, it didn’t take long for “Jojo” to have a revelation and make sense about the situation.

“I’m sure my dad didn’t want to see a girl who parties every day and drinks too much beer and wine. I’m sure he wanted me to keep fighting because I was very good at it, and he was always proud of me and watched every fight I had,” she continues.

“I picked up my gloves and got back into the gym, and worked very hard to make my dad proud. I can tell you, at that time, the title meant nothing. But now, it’s very special because it was the last fight he watched live. Now, he is watching every fight from heaven.”

Staying Perfect

With even more motivation to succeed, Baars went on a tear that has never been stopped.

She has earned four Dutch titles, four European titles, and six World Titles in her career to date including the Lion Fight Women’s World Welterweight Championship and the ISKA Welterweight World Championship.

All of that has led “Jojo” to The Home Of Martial Arts, where she is eager to put on a clinical display for a new legion of fans and cement her place as an all-time great.

“For me, every fight is important. But the first fight in ONE is very special for me,” she says. “This is the first time I feel like I am getting the respect I deserve. This is why I worked so hard for 24 years.”

Baars’ list of achievements is already longer than most could ever dream of, but she is still hungry to claim her biggest prize yet in ONE Super Series.

Her road to future ONE World Title gold begins with her featherweight kickboxing match against Breuer in the Chinese capital on Saturday.

“I think I have another spot in my gym open for another belt, so maybe it is this one,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve trained very hard, and I’m very, very excited.”

Read more: Undefeated World Champion Jorina Baars Signs With ONE

Beijing | 16 November | AGE OF DRAGONS | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast