When Jenelyn Olsim made her ONE Championship debut early this year, she couldn’t dream of getting the call that she received earlier this week.
But here she is – just one win away from breaking into the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix final.
With Itsuki Hirata pulling out due to an undisclosed medical condition, the Filipina is stepping in as a last-minute semifinal replacement and will take on Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat in the co-main event of ONE: NEXTGEN this Friday, 29 October.
“I never expected to be in this position in such a short time. But all I know is that I trained as hard as I can, I grabbed every opportunity that ONE has given me, and now here I am,” Olsim says.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunities, and I’m even more motivated. This wouldn’t be possible without the people around me.”
While Friday’s semifinal bout came as a surprise, the Team Lakay star has always aimed to be up among the promotion’s elite. And given her performances so far, a chance to face the best was eventually going to come.
Both victories turned heads and put her in a good position, but a win over Phogat would make her an undeniable star. With that in mind, the Filipina is feeling good about Friday’s pivotal contest.
“I am very confident in myself, I trust myself, my training, my coach, and my gym. I believe I can beat anyone they give me. I’ll [just] accept every fight that they offer. I’m very motivated and focused right now. I want to win,” Olsim says.
“I’m excited and happy. Sure there’s a little pressure being in the Grand Prix – and I am fighting Ritu. I like her. I was inspired by her movie ‘Dangal,’ so there’s a little pressure. But I am more excited.”
This clash will be a classic striker-versus-grappler battle, with Olsim holding an advantage on the feet owing to her Muay Thai and wushu background, and Phogat having the skill on the mat thanks to her world-class wrestling.
The question on everyone’s mind is how the new challenger will deal with the Indian star’s takedowns. But for her part, the Filipina is confident that she’s well-equipped to handle Phogat after preparing for a different grappler, Grace “Thai Kitten” Cleveland, in the past.
“I believe wrestling is her biggest asset, but I think I can handle that. I want to prove that I am not just some alternate, and when it comes to wrestling, I think I can grapple with her,” Olsim says.
“My previous fight that was canceled [vs. Cleveland] was against a wrestler and a grappler too, so I’m very confident with my training. I’m prepared for that kind of game. We trained in the gym – not just on one aspect, but on everything.”
While trying not to sound cocky, Olsim is calling her shot, and she doesn’t plan on utilizing all 15 minutes to overcome Phogat in the Circle.
If an opening for the finish comes, she’ll grab it by the horns – just as she’s done with every opportunity ONE has given her.
“I believe in the saying, ‘Don’t leave it to the judges,'” Olsim adds. “I will give everything I have. I will do everything to finish the game. It’s either a submission or knockout.”