Jomary “The Zamboanginian Fighter” Torres went from taking care of kids in the Philippine capital to taking care of business in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Ahead of the 23-year-old’s atomweight showdown with her Chinese foe, we look back at the life that created her unbreakable spirit – a spirit she will undoubtedly bring to the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Abandoned, But Loved
Torres and her older brother were actually left under the care of their grandmother since they were infants.
Deprived of both parents, Torres still grew up to be a well-mannered lady, as her grandmother filled the void left by their absence. Despite not having a stable business as a source of income, her grandmother found ways to provide, such as picking up extra work at a school cafeteria. Her aunts also helped to raise the two children.
“My dad is in Zamboanga City, while my mom is in Basilan,” she reveals. “They each have their own families. Before, there was still anger in my heart because I did not know why they left, and why they broke up. But eventually, that anger disappeared.”
As a result of her circumstances, Torres was regularly picked on by some of her classmates. However, the young Filipina would not be anyone’s physical, or verbal, punching bag.
“I was a really quiet girl, and I guess that enticed them to bully me even more,” she explains. “I told them they should not mess with me because if I fought back, they would be sorry. I punched one and even earned a trip to the principal’s office.”
Despite the bullying, the abandonment from her parents, and the lack of any real role models, she still had her simple dreams.
“I really wanted to play basketball,” she quips. Having played in fiestas and for her school, she thought that she could eventually find a way to make a career out of her hobby. However, circumstances would not allow her to pursue that road.
“Instead of letting my grandmother work even more just to get me through college, I decided to stop going to school and find a job to help her out.”
Opportunities In The City
At that time, a friend of her aunt’s in Taguig, Manila, was looking for someone to take care of their newborn child. Her aunt would call Torres, who did not hesitate to take the job.
During her time as a nanny, she met Ruel Catalan, who frequented a gym near the school where the child she took care of was studying. While waiting for the child to finish school, Torres swung by the gym to watch the action.
For three years, the usually-active Torres was contained in a job where she could not feed her competitive spirit, and could only envy them from the sidelines. Watching people get fit, all while satisfying that craving for competition through martial arts enticed her.
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“Coach Rene invited me and gave me an offer to consider. I tried training, and I have been there ever since,” she reveals. “I was a bit fat before. I only got fit here.”
Torres left her job as a nanny and trained to become a full-time mixed martial artist. With no martial arts background, it came as a shock for her when she was immediately booked for a match.
The Filipina took the nickname of “The Zamboanginian Fighter,” a simple nod to her hometown, and had her professional debut in August 2016 at a local show. She pulled off the unanimous decision victory, and from then, the Catalans knew they had a potential star on their hands.
“I trained for two months, and was surprised when I was told by my coach that I would be competing,” she says, “I took on the challenge so that I could experience a real match, and thankfully, I won.”
A Dominant Debut
In May 2017, Torres was slated to make her ONE Championship debut against Thai superstar Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, but she was forced to back out of the contest. She could not apply for a passport because of a clerical error.
Fortunately, Coach Rene helped get the matter resolved, and the bout was rescheduled for ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS in August 2017.
Despite feeling nervous in the moments leading up to her first international contest, Torres was able to relax as soon as she stepped into the Circle.
“My opponent was right in front of me, and all the people who supported me were all there,” she recalls.
At that moment, the Filipina realized that she was not in a dream.
After a first-round dominated by Ishige, Torres came back in the second with a mean right hook that dropped the Thai atomweight to the canvas.
“I got her with a good punch, and I pounced,” she recalls. “I kept waiting for the ref to stop the bout, but he did not.”
Torres then resorted to an unconventional rear-naked choke, which caused the previously-undefeated “Tiny Doll” to tap out. The victory shocked everyone in attendance, including Torres and her teammates.
“They asked me where that choke move came from, because it surprised them,” she says. “I told them I surprised myself, too!”
The Next Challenge
Following her win against Ishige, the Filipina defeated Nita Dea at ONE: HERO’S DREAM in November 2017, and then she scored a 40-second knockout victory over April Osenio at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in January 2018. At the time, the knockout was considered the fastest finish in ONE’s women’s history.
Though “The Zamboanginian Fighter” has experienced a couple of setbacks since that highlight-reel moment, she is planning to get back on track at ONE: FIRE & FURY.
She will be standing across the Circle from Huang, a black belt judoka and a former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger who is certain to push the young star to the limit.
If Torres can showcase her unbreakable spirit and beat “Lady GoGo” in front of her compatriots at the Mall Of Asia Arena, then it would be a massive step on her journey towards the gold.