The Singaporean athlete – who is now set to face Ayaka Miura at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE in a match to determine the top contender in ONE Championship’s women’s strawweight division – admits she once lacked the confidence to put her training into practice.
When Teo started training in “the art of eight limbs” in 2010, her relentless work ethic quickly drew the attention of coaches and instructors at Baan Nak Muay Muay Thai gym in Singapore.
Despite their pleas, Teo was hesitant to take the leap and test herself in the ring.
“I was training almost every day, but I wasn’t that keen to fight just yet,” Teo reveals.
“Back then, my goal was only training to get better every day. I guess the Thai coaches at the time saw how hard I was training, and they thought that I wanted to compete.”
“No Chill” was also nearing the final semester of her studies, which left her little time to think about any competitive aspirations.
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“I was studying and working part-time,” she explains.
“I felt like I needed to commit more to training before I even considered fighting professionally. Mentally and physically, I just felt like I wasn’t in the right condition. I was also planning for overseas studies, there were too many things going on all at once.”
Shortly after, Teo packed her bags and moved to Buffalo, New York, in the United States to finish up her final term.
While she was there, she carried on her martial arts training, but the BJJ clubs and boxing classes organized by the university were mostly for fitness. The Singaporean craved the intensity she was used to.
After she graduated, Teo then traveled to Europe and embarked on the Camino de Santiago – an 800-kilometer trek across northern Spain. Many people make the trek as a retreat for their spiritual growth and it allowed her to zone in on what she wanted to achieve as a martial artist.
“I didn’t train for it, I just laced up some hiking boots and walked every day for one whole month, it was a truly life-changing experience,” she explains.
“Every day when I was walking, it gave me a lot of time to really think. I was going through the list of things I wanted to do after graduation, like ‘What’s next?’ I realized that the one thing on my bucket list was to have a real Muay Thai fight.”
When she returned to Singapore, Teo signed up with a gym that was looking for female competitors and got her first taste of amateur Muay Thai action.
Though she lost a close bout, it inspired her to take up boxing to improve her hands, and after a year of training, she won her first amateur bout. That led to her call-up to the national boxing team for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Sri Lanka, where she had another epiphany.
“At that point in time, I felt like it was either all in or all out. I knew that if I wanted to do well, I had to fully commit myself to it or just not do it at all,” Teo explains.
“That was the point where I decided that I’m going to focus on this 100 percent and see where it leads me to.”
“No Chill” was training at Juggernaut Fight Club, and she was soon approached by head coach Arvind Lalwani about a possible switch to mixed martial arts. With her newfound fire, it was an idea she warmed up to quickly.
“It was hard to get boxing matches back then as there were not many girls at my weight division,” she explains.
“I just wanted to stay active, so I thought, ‘Why not just give it a try?’”
The Singaporean athlete had her first professional bout at the start of 2016 and quickly built an impressive undefeated record that earned her a shot at the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title.
Even a tough loss at the hands of “The Panda” Xiong Xing Nan could not discourage her. She regrouped, got back to work in the gym, rebounded in the Circle, and now she is on the cusp of earning another chance to win the gold.
“Most people say they want something, but when it’s time to put in the work – you have to train three times a day, diet, and the going gets tough, that’s when you get to see what you are really made of,” she says.
“I asked myself that same question many times, and my answer was, ‘Yes, I want to fight, I want to do this very badly,’ even if it meant sacrificing a lot of things. If that’s the same for you, then be ready and just go for it.”