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Bellator signs boxing champ Julaton: Unlike McGregor, I’m not screaming ‘I am MMA!’

Former world Boxing champ Ana Julaton speaks to Bloody Elbow about signing with Bellator and her personal journey in Mixed Martial Arts.

Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former world champion boxer Ana Julaton is set to continue her MMA career, and has officially signed with Bellator.

The Filipino-American had tried out for TUF as a last minute decision, and while she ultimately wasn’t selected by the producers, she feels like this Bellator deal ended up being better for her business-wise. Not only does her contract allow for outside sponsorship, it also lets her pursue professional boxing matches and compete often.

“When I was training under his stable at WildCard B.C. Freddie Roach would say, ‘Activity is always good for fighters,’” Julaton told Bloody Elbow on her decision to sign with Bellator. “Having the ability to do both boxing and MMA helps with opening the possibility to have an active fight schedule. My story as a boxer isn't done yet, so having the clause to box is a game changer.

“This also builds my brand as a combat athlete and increase my visibility for sponsorship, which Bellator allows fighters to do. It's a different format than the UFC and it may not work for every fighter, but for someone like me, I love it. I feel like I have more control of what direction I want to take my fighting career.”

Julaton still doesn’t have her debut finalized just yet, but is hoping to be on Bellator 185 this October. It’s a high profile card headlined by Gegard Mousasi, but it also happens to be the same card as fellow boxer Heather Hardy, who Julaton hopes to face at a later date.

Apart from plying her trade as a champion boxer, Julaton also holds black belts in Kenpo Karate and Tae Kwon Do. Her background was mainly in striking, so when Julaton decided to make the switch to MMA in 2014, she trained almost exclusively on her ground game with Ricky Lundell and others.

“There was so much to learn, but I dedicated myself to it, which isn't easy to do,” she said. “Today, you don't see many world champion caliber boxers step into a wrestling room and open up to start from the bottom. I stuck it out for a couple of years, even to the point where wrestling became my sole focus and I trained to use it in live fights with ONE.”

This showed in her bouts in Asia, which surprised onlookers that a champion boxer was taking a wrestling-heavy approach to her fights. But focusing on grappling not only negated some of her striking advantages over opponents in MMA, it also affected her performance during her boxing matches.

Julaton has boxed thrice since making the switch to MMA, ending up with 1 win, and 2 draws. It’s not exactly a bad record on either sport, but Julaton knew the difference in where she wanted to be, and she needed a change.

“After some time, I stepped away from that. From solely focusing on wrestling, to solely focusing on boxing, I felt stuck, mentally,” Julaton admitted. “I couldn't figure out how to mix the two styles together effectively in the cage even after exclusively studying the two.”

“I needed a fresh outlook on fighting, and dropped boxing and wrestling altogether. Then I went back to my roots and began kicking and practicing martial arts again. Dots started to connect and I slowly integrated boxing back into the training sessions.”

Julaton also kept working with Frank Mir and her main coach in Angelo Reyes to actually integrate all these styles better for Mixed Martial Arts.

“Learning from Frank with his explanations of jiu jitsu for MMA, and training with Reyn Fujishige with his viewpoint of jiu jitsu was eye opening. More dots started to connect from BJJ to wrestling and vice versa.

“What really helped was having my coach, Angelo present during those times with Frank to connect my striking style. He really took the time to understand the fundamentals from the different arts and devised a direction for me to grow organically as a fighter. Soon enough, the dots from standup and all the levels to this connected to grappling and all the different levels to that.”

With almost two years of training and learning since her last MMA bout, Julaton says she has rediscovered her style and is looking forward to showcasing it on a new platform.

“I'm excited to show everyone in the Bellator cage how much I've evolved as a Mixed Martial Artist. I have a deep respect for the sport, and unlike Conor McGregor, I didn't step into the MMA arena saying "I am MMA!" Instead I chose a humble approach.

“Different strokes for different folks, but something I've always believed in is listening to those who have the knowledge. My boxing promoter always told me that fights sports is a Marathon and not a sprint. Now I feel I've hit my stride, it’s time to make that next turn on the Bellator stage.”