Ana Julaton is the latest MMA fighter to have transitioned from a successful career in a different combat sport. Fighting fellow boxer-turned MMA fighter Heather Hardy on February 16th at Bellator 194, FO’s Tony Reid caught up with Julaton ahead of their long-awaiting bout.
Read our interview with Heather Hardy here.
You have been working closely with Frank Mir. What has it been like learning from an MMA legend?
I have a black belt in Kempo Karate and so does Frank. We share the same boxing coach in Angelo Reyes and he also has a black belt in Kempo Karate. It’s pretty neat because stepping out of the wrestling room I could see Jiu Jitsu with fresh eyes. When Frank was going over some of the fundamentals with me about two years ago, he could tell I wasn’t able to get it or pick up certain techniques right away. He would flip it and start talking in Kempo Karate words or terms. Then I was like, ‘OK, I totally get it now.’
It’s fun to sit there and talk to him with our similar background. He is so experienced. He has had so many fights. He’s a multiple time world champion. He can vividly explain to me exactly what was going on in certain situations. He will say what works and what doesn’t and he will tell me who or what to listen to. From what I’ve found, this goes for any martial arts, there are a lot of theories that come into play but those that tend to work come from those who have actually done it. He is super cerebral and it’s pretty cool to be able to live in the moment with him in those situations.
As an accomplished boxer, what made you want to make the transition to MMA?
MMA is still a very young sport. To have Bellator open up the 125 pound division and give me an opportunity to fight in the cage and in the ring, I was thinking that this is untapped territory. There is a lot of potential out here. Whatever sport an athlete enters they want to win the title. That is part of my goal but also if I want to make this a career where I can live off it and fund my camps, business wise that would be amazing. Bellator allows fighters to have sponsorship deals.
You have a pretty unique management team. Can you tell us about the stars that represent you?
Shout out to my team, Bar None. You might be familiar with my manager, Brett Raymer. He is the star of the show Tanked on Animal Planet. They are on their seventh season. They are coming out with new episodes and it’s just amazing. His partner is Russell Collings from Gold Spike Legal.
My first fight with Bellator was a short notice fight. Anyone who understands the MMA business knows you have to have your banner made up. You have your shorts and your whole outfit full of sponsors. With Brett and Russ I was able to get 10 sponsors in like a week and a half. They worked wonders. I am excited to have them on my side. Being a woman in a male dominated sport, it’s nice to have someone want to take a chance on you. They have my back. I really feel it with those guys. So why do it now? It’s the untapped opportunity that’s available. I’m looking forward to having all of the other women be aware of this. I hope they put their imprint on this as well.
How does amateur combat sport differ to the professional side?
If anyone wants to look for pure skill, look at the amateur programs. The Olympics is a great stage for a lot of athletes that want to showcase their skills. That’s the amateur business. There you have the opportunity to fight people who are just focusing on their craft and you won’t have to worry quite so much about the business aspect.
The professional leagues are a whole different story. Gosh, you have to focus in the gym, get your skills up and outside of the gym you have to make your tongue sharp. You have to be ready to rock and roll and have people want to watch you fight, whether they are cheering for you or they are booing you. You have to have a thick skin in this business. You have to have that in any business you are a part of. I look forward to great things here in Bellator. I look forward to other women get hip with the program and get hip with the game. If you want to get in bikinis and post everything on social media or if you want to just focus on your game and knock people out every time you step in the cage, wither way, you just want people to talk about you.
Given your management team, do you have plans to move into the entertainment industry at some point?
It definitely helps to have someone like Brett Raymer in my ear. I can see how it works behind the scenes, behind the camera. What I love most about working with him is that he loves the fight game. This guy watches boxing, he watches MMA. He always wanted to be in it. He hooked up with my coach Angelo Reyes, who I think people underestimate him sometimes. He really gets it done. He was able to have me hook up with Brett and it’s pretty cool to see the dynamics of what is happening right now. They are already planning things for me post fight. I think that gets lost in the game. It’s nice to be able to have people who are experienced in that field to help maneuver and manage people in a certain way.
A fight with Heather Hardy has been in your crosshairs and in the conversation for quite some time. Now that it is finally happening what are your thoughts?
My boxing promoter had been in talks with her promoter for years for a boxing match. It’s nice that she actually decided to go into MMA and sign with Bellator where she can have a contract similar to mine where she can box and do MMA. It would be foolish if we didn’t fight, whether it’s in the ring or in the cage. There are a lot of people talking about it. Like I said before, Ali isn’t Ali without Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Sugar Ray Leonard isn’t Sugar Ray Leonard without Robert Duran, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler. You need two people to be successful in this industry. It’s rare that you find a lone wolf that is successful. We were asked before my debut if we were willing to fight on that card and we said yes, 100%. It was on her side that declined. Time is ticking. The time is now.