Some people are gifted with the kind of natural talent that shines through at the youngest of ages, when there’s more than just a glimpse of that something special may be waiting to emerge.
That was certainly the case with ONE Championship Muay Thai phenom Alma Juniku.
The daughter of a former professional footballer was kicking a ball as soon as she could walk, which was soon put to the side after she discovered the joys of martial arts.
A neighbour encouraged her to come to training one day, and the rest is history. It took a while for her parents to come around to the idea, but Juniku’s undeniable talent demanded fostering.
The titles started rolling in when Juniku was just nine-years-old, a trend that continued through her teens until she turned professional just a few years later.
Now at just 18-years-old, Juniku sits on the brink of a life-changing opportunity – a chance to lift the ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Championship from Thai star Stamp Fairtex at ONE: legendary Quest in Shanghai on June 15.
Juniku is leaving nothing to chance as she looks to seize her opportunity to make a statement in China and stun the martial arts world by upsetting Stamp, who herself is a born and raised martial artist.
“I’m training really hard. I’ve been working morning and night on my fitness and getting strong,” Juniku explains.
“When I jump in the ring, I’m really, really hungry. I want to win. I won’t let someone take anything away from me that is mine. At the end of the day, whoever’s the most hungry will get it.”
The Australian of Albanian heritage has already proven her class with back-to-back wins since arriving at ONE, beating “Killer Bee” Kai Ting Chuang and American Janet Todd, who recently came up short in her bid for the title against Stamp.
Far from overawed by the occasion, Juniku is confident she has both the striking kills and mental fortitude to have her hand raised and the belt wrapped around her waist at Baoshan Arena.
“I can see this fight going toe-to-toe from round one to round five,” she predicted.
“I believe we’re just both going to go at it – I can’t predict how it’s going to end, but I know it’ll be a really good, tough fight.”
Also in action on a packed night of fights in Shanghai is Japanese-Korean star Yoshihiro Akiyama, who’ll make his ONE debut against Malaysian warrior Agilan Thani.