ONE Championship athlete Angelie “The Explorer” Sabanal, 29, of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines is a Muay Thai practitioner and a college math professor at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines. Her Muay Thai training started a few years after her college graduation.
“I never thought that I would be a martial artist because I didn’t have the interest to try it back then,” Sabanal shared. “I was a volleyball player in grade school. Maybe, it’s my competitive spirit that brought me into this position right now.”
According to Sabanal, she enrolled in Muay Thai classes purely for fitness and self-defense. She revealed, “It took me five years to finally try to compete in Muay Thai because it never crossed my mind to compete nor become a fighter.”
When Sabanal was 22 years old, she started to learn the ropes of Muay Thai at Mindanao Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts, a home to the best and brightest talents in Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines. When she was 27, she finished her master’s degree and started competing.
“I was busy finishing my dissertation paper for my master’s degree,” Sabanal recalled. “My priority at that time was to graduate, if not with honors. Although I was really progressing in Muay Thai, my focus was still fixed on getting a diploma.”
“After I earned my master’s degree, my coaches were the first ones who congratulated me but after that, they asked me if I wanted to join the team,” the Math professor added. “It was in 2017 when I accepted the offer. Well, the rest is history.”
It did not take long for Sabanal to capture gold medals in a provincial level, leading her to the 2017 Philippine National Muay Thai Championship where she attained a bridesmaid finish in the 57 kg category. She said, “I got silver, despite the fact that I am naturally a 49 kg competitor.”
“I was supposed to fight in the 50 kg category but unfortunately, I didn’t have any opponent,” Sabanal continued. “I decided to fight in a higher weight class. Fortunately, I finished the tourney with a silver medal in hand.”
Sabanal’s success in Muay Thai gained the interest of ONE Championship, giving her a chance to compete in the largest martial arts promotion in the world. In her promotional debut, which was at “ONE: Iron Will” on March 24, 2018, she defeated Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige, 29, of Bangkok, Thailand.
“I could not believe it because people were telling me that I should compete in the local scene first before I get my chance in ONE Championship,” Sabanal said. “Aside from that, my opponent was clearly more experienced than me. Getting the victory over Rika is like winning a world championship.”
On November 17, 2018, Sabanal will compete in ONE Championship for the second time. She will face Priscilla “Thathi” Hertati Lumban Gaol, 30, of Jakarta, Indonesia at “ONE: Warrior’s Dream” at the Stadium Istora in Jakarta.
Currently, Sabanal holds a professional MMA record of 1 win and 0 loss. Here is a clip featuring the Filipino math professor and Muay Thai practitioner: