Uyen Ha did not know what mixed martial arts was until she turned 16 years old, but it might have been the single greatest discovery of her young life.
For the past five years, the prospect has dedicated herself to training, and even left her native Melbourne, Australia, to develop her skills in Phuket, Thailand.
Now, she intends to prove herself in ONE Warrior Series (OWS), and hopes to eventually score a contract with ONE Championship. Before she becomes a superstar, take this opportunity to learn a little bit more about the up-and-coming talent.
A Chance Encounter
Ha was raised by a single mother in Melbourne, Australia, but she saw her father on a weekly basis.
She did not participate in athletics during her early childhood, instead opting to rest and relax in front of the television screen.
“No one in my family really did any sports. I was pretty unfit as a kid,” she states. “It was really easy to just sit on the couch, and watch TV after school.”
However, when she reached high school, she was forced to become more active.
“When I was about 13, we had to do sports as a compulsory course, and we had to do all the different sports,” she continues.
“I played soccer, lacrosse, and tried rowing, and we did a few self-defense classes that I really loved. I was terrible. I went to an all-girls school, so everyone was kind of scared of this really buff dude who showed us all of these moves, but I thought it was kind of cool.”
Unfortunately, Ha believed she was too old to pursue something like martial arts, because all of the students playing sports in her school had been doing so ever since they were kids.
That led the young girl back to her studies, and she gave up any thought about training in martial arts.
The Gentle Art
Three years had passed since Ha took part in those self-defense classes, and she never gave martial arts a second thought during that time.
However, she revisited the idea when she attended a family get-together. She was introduced to her aunt’s boyfriend, who was a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. He talked about the benefits of “the gentle art,” which inspired the Aussie.
“My aunt’s boyfriend did jiu-jitsu,” Ha explains.
“He would always talk about how good it is, and how I should start, but I thought I was too old. I am a pretty impulsive person, so I tend to just do something without any planning.
“I was 16 years old when I had quit guitar lessons at school, and I thought I should try something new. So, I Googled ‘martial arts and Melbourne,’ and a mixed martial arts gym popped up.”
Ha immediately decided to give it a shot, but first, she had to get permission from her mother.
“I had no idea what mixed martial arts was, but I asked my mom if I could do martial arts,” Ha continues. “She said ‘yeah,’ and she took me there. I genuinely had no idea what I was doing, but I liked it.”
Longing For Adventure
Ha fell in love with mixed martial arts from the moment she started training. A major problem, however, was brewing on the home front.
The Aussie’s mother believed she was practicing karate in a dojo, and not training in a full-contact sport like mixed martial arts. But once she discovered her daughter’s activities, she told her to stop, and focus on her studies.
“My mom is an academic,” the prospect begins.
“She teaches at a university, and so does her partner, so education was always extremely important. I just was not feeling it, but I knew that I loved training.
“I ran away from home. I wanted to do martial arts, and I wanted to be a fighter, even though I did not have any fights yet. My coaches were like, ’You should probably finish school.’ I made this promise to myself that if I finished high school, then I would do a three-month training camp in Thailand.”
Ha moved back home, and the relationship with her mother improved as she was able to effectively split her time between school and martial arts.
After graduating in 2014, she fulfilled her promise.
The aspiring martial artist spent three months training in Thailand, and then returned to “The Land Down Under” to start college. She studied law and international relations at Australian National University, seven hours away from her native Melbourne, and although she loved her courses, she did not feel comfortable in her new surroundings.
What’s more, she had a bad experience at a local gym near her school, which caused her to stop training.
“I got really depressed,” she admits. “For a semester, I just hung out in my dorm room, and I was all alone. I hated it.”
That prompted Ha to make a life-changing decision — she decided to return to Thailand without telling her mother, and train in martial arts full-time.
“I quit my job, and moved,” she says. “I told my mom something came up with my friends, and I had to go back to Thailand. I said I would be back in a few weeks. I moved there, and after a couple of weeks, I think she figured it out.”
Despite being only 21 years old, Ha has made tremendous strides in her mixed martial arts career.
In late 2017, she relocated to Phuket, Thailand to train at the world-famous Tiger Muay Thai. While there, she heard about a rare opportunity.
“I saw an advertisement for the ONE Warrior Series tryouts in Bangkok,” she explains.
“This was literally just a few weeks after I moved to Tiger, and so I contacted my coach and said, ‘I am going for this.’ I went up to Bangkok, and I did not have any mixed martial arts fights yet — no amateur bouts, nothing.
“I was feeling confident and fit. There were not too many girls there — maybe five or so. I thought I did pretty well, and they called us up to the front. Rich Franklin was like, ‘You’re not ready, you have some gaps in your game. I want you to go back and work on them, and maybe in six months time, we would like to have you on the show.’”
Ha diligently followed the ONE Championship Vice President’s advice, and, as it played out on the latest episode of the documentary show, she was accepted into the program.
Now, she is looking forward to improving her skills in ONE Warrior Series, and hopes to eventually secure a place in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“I think it is a good spot for me,” she says.
“Right now, the goal is ONE Championship — that is all we are looking at. I have come to the realization that I am still young. I am still studying, but I can do that later. It is not a ‘now or never’ kind of thing. I am taking all the steps that I can, and I am training hard every day to make it happen.”