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Seizing the moment: Fil-Aussie Natalie Hills ready for the big stage

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Filipino-Australian straw weight Natalie Gonzales Hills will make her ONE Championship debut on Friday, November 13 at ONE Pride of Lions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Before Hills (2-2) steps into the ONE cage to face unbeaten Angela “Unstoppable” Lee, we had a chance to speak with the Fil-Aussie strawweight about her roots, MMA experience, and upcoming fight.

Hills was born in San Antonio, Cavite City, Philippines but moved to the United Kingdom with her father when she was just a year old.

The Fil-Aussie was introduced to the sport when she was in college. A victim of gang violence and racial discrimination, she found solace in working out at a local boxing gym not just to build strength but to build her confidence as well.

“I was having a rough time at university and started boxing to improve my confidence. I was fed up with the binge drinking culture and had been victim to a racial attack by a gang in my first year of study so I took solace in the gym,” she reflected. “I tried out the other classes at Trojan Free Fighters (gym) including MMA and soon was hooked, training every day. I had studied karate as a kid so I picked up kickboxing the easiest.”

After finishing her college education, she pursued her Muay Thai career as she moved from the cold weather of the United Kingdom to sunny Thailand. “I won both my bouts there and continued travelling and training throughout Asia,” she said. An opportunity then arose as she was invited to fight for Australian promotion – Brace for War. “I had an opportunity to fight on the first all-women’s MMA card in Australia and won my Brace debut. Since then I have only fought MMA but still have a love for Muay Thai.”

Her love for the martial arts also led her back to the Philippines to train local martial arts, arnis and yawyan. “As a child we went from England to the Philippines for family holidays. In 2011, I went to live in the Philippines for three months with my relatives and tried to learn Tagalog. I had been studying Arnis in England and was excited when I found a local gym near the market,” she fondly recalled. “Senior Henry Cerilla became my ‘punong guro’ (chief teacher) and I learnt from him three times a day. He also took me to different martial arts gyms including Yawyan Fervilleon. I revisited in 2013 for two months and studied Arnis and Yawyan again. Arnis Eskrima De Cavite became my second home. I would like to visit more.”

Coming into her debut fight three years ago, Hills needed a nickname. With the help of her boyfriend, they came up with one of the most unique nicknames in MMA – “Kilapino.” She shared that Kilapino was a mash-up of kill and Filipino. “Soon everyone at the gym would joke around and call me ‘The Kilapino’ and my fighting style is very aggressive so it worked,” she happily disclosed.

Eventually, after four professional fights, Hills received the opportunity of a lifetime – to fight for Asia’s top MMA promotion ONE Championship. “I’m really excited to be fighting internationally and to debut on ONE Championship is huge! I want to put on a great performance and get back on the winning track,” the striker said about the opportunity. “There is a lot going through my mind but I’m really trying to stay focused, keep my composure and fight my fight.”

She admitted though that she does not research on the background of her opponents and leaves the game-plan aspect of the game to her coaches. The Muay Thai practitioner though believes that her hunger and work ethic will lead her to victory come Friday night. “I know she is talented and hungry but I have those qualities too so I do not worry but look forward to the challenge,” the 27 year old said.

She believes that her aggressive fighting-style – a Filipino trait – can negate Lee’s cerebral approach to the game as well. “My mother always told me I was stubborn, ‘matigas ang ulo’ (hard-headed) or in chavacano ‘duro cabeza’ and its true. I take that attitude into my fighting. I’m very aggressive and keep pushing forward.”

Finally, the Filipina knows that a win might just book her ticket to fight in Manila one day. “I’m really excited to be fighting for ONE Championship and to have a chance at connecting with Filipino fight fans. I was born in Cavite City less than an hour away from Manila so it has always been a dream of mine to fight there.”

“I would be honored to gain a following in the Philippines because although I was raised in England, I have always been very proud of my Filipino heritage.”

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