Natalie Hills excited to reconnect with Filipino roots

British-Filipina mixed martial artist Natalie “The Kilapino” Gonzales Hills may have found herself on the wrong end of a rare Twister submission by Singapore’s Angela Lee in her last bout, but she more than held her own when the going got tough.

Hills (1-3) finally gets her wish to compete in front of her friends and family in the Philippines, where she has deep roots, when she meets Team Lakay’s April Osenio in a three-round atomweight bout at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS. The event takes place on 15 April at the 20,000-capacity Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines.

“I’m really excited, it all happened really fast – turning pro and then signing the contract with ONE. I didn’t think that I’d get this opportunity [to fight in the Philippines] so quickly and because I lost my debut, it really just motivates me to win,” said Hills.

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“I want to make an impression when I get to Manila. I’m really excited because this is the first time since I’ve gone pro that I’ll be fighting at my weight and just fighting near my family. That’s really exciting. I haven’t been home for a couple of years now.”

Hills was born to an English father and a Filipino mother, and spent most of her life in England before moving to Australia and training in various parts of Asia to pursue a professional MMA career.

She discovered martial arts after being a bit of a troublemaker and an angry teenager while being brought up in England. Now, she says she puts her aggression to good use.

“I think with my aggression, I always think that I can win fights. The key for me is just making sure that I don’t rush in there,” said Hills.

“My last fight, it started off good but I kind of got a bit carried away. When I spar and when I’m training, I’m very calculated and technical, but when I get in [the cage] I just want to get my hands on the person so quick that I just get carried away.”

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On April 15, Hills gets the chance to perform in front of her relatives from Cavite, who she says are all very excited to see her grace the ONE Championship cage for the first time in Manila. Her mother, especially, approves of her decision to become a fighter.

“My mom is really excited, and I’m going to try not to get distracted because I’ve got so much family [in the Philippines],” said Hills.

“I’ll see if I can maybe train during the week and then visit family on the weekends. I have a new ‘inaanak’ and new cousins that I haven’t met before, so I want to see the baby and catch up with everybody.”

After a dismal start to her ONE Championship career, Hills is ready to put the past behind her and kick off a fresh new beginning to what should be a fulfilling career in martial arts.

Although her opponent Osenio of the famed Team Lakay in Baguio City, Philippines, is a fellow Filipina warrior and is certainly no pushover, Hills feels now is her time to shine, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to win the hearts of the local fans.

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“It hasn’t really hit me, so when I get there, it might be a bit of a shock, but I’m hoping I’ll be received well. Fighting another Filipino, you never know. I think that both of us will have backing and we’ll attract different kinds of fans,” said Hills.

“But obviously, April, she’s from Baguio so that will be interesting, but we’re both Filipina and we have to fight for the pride of the Philippines. As long as we put on a good fight, I think that’s the main thing.”

Hills and Osenio do battle in a three-round women’s atomweight contest as part of the undercard for ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS. The evening will be headlined by a title bout between ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren and challenger Nikolay Aleksakhin of Russia. – By Carlos Cinco

Follow this writer on Twitter: @CarloCincoFCB

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