Indian boxing superstar Asha” Knockout Queen” Roka, makes her highly-anticipated ONE Championship debut this Friday, 16 August at ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD. Roka will face off against ONE Atomweight Kickboxing & Muay Thai World Champion Stamp Fairtex in an atomweight mixed martial arts contest.
The 15-bout card takes place on Stamp’s home turf inside the Impact Arena, in Bangkok, Thailand. However, instead of intimidating Roka, the thought of competing against an athlete of Stamp’s caliber in the Thai’s home country has only helped fuel her competitive drive.
“I have been in Phuket at Tiger Muay Thai for training. To perform in front of a Thai crowd against a top opponent is exciting and challenging at the same time. I think I need this level of competition at this moment,” Roka said.
The 20-year-old took up boxing at the age of 11, and within two years began winning national titles. After cleaning up the local scene, the Bhopal-native set her aspirations even higher, and in 2013, Roka medalled at the World Championships in Bulgaria.
It was shortly after her triumph in Bulgaria that Roka’s career hit a roadblock when boxing was banned in India due to administrative issues. After learning that she would be unable to continue her boxing career, Roka went in search of an outlet for her skills.
It was during this search that she discovered mixed martial arts.
A naturally gifted athlete, it did not take her long before she was earning praise for her performances. Roka’s steady string of first-round victories made it all but inevitable that she would attract the attention of the world’s largest martial arts organization.
While it was not something Roka had been consciously working towards, when the chance came to ink a deal with ONE, she did not hesitate to put pen to paper.
“To be honest, I never planned on going to ONE, but yes I’m really happy to get this opportunity to compete at this level. My focus is to do the best in whatever sport I compete,” she commented.
Roka has been given a tough task for her first ONE outing. Stamp is one of the best female strikers on the planet. Still, after studying footage of her upcoming opponent, Roka is eager to see how she will measure up against the two-sport ONE World Champion.
“I think she’s [Stamp] a top athlete and possess all the skills which I would like to have in my opponent; otherwise I won’t gain anything even if I win the bout. Definitely, she has faced top opponents of the same caliber,” Roka noted.
Despite Stamp’s impressive pedigree, there is still a question mark over how she will fare if the contest goes to the ground. The same can also be said of Roka. The Indian athlete is known both for her physical strength and her power punches, but she is keen to stress that she is far from a one-trick pony.
“My background in boxing helps me a lot, but for sure, wrestling plays a big role. I’m really lucky to have a good wrestling team in my corner. It’s a work in progress, still a lot to learn. However nothing teaches you more than a good opponent,” Roka said.
ONE is currently growing at an incredible rate and in 2020, the Asia-based promotion will take its show to the world’s second most populated country. Roka feels confident that the sport is poised to develop a massive following amongst Indian sports fans.
“Mixed martial arts could become big in India. Things have already changed in the last couple of years. I think we need more centers in India for mixed martial arts training,” she explained.
If Roka can continue her winning streak at ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD, the talented youngster could soon find herself the face of Indian mixed martial arts.