This past August, Jomary “The Zamboanginian Fighter” Torres (2-0) shocked the world.
The little-known atomweight from the Philippines made her promotional debut against rising Thai star Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS. While the Thai has emerged as one of the most popular talents in Asia’s martial arts, Torres stole the spotlight that fateful night when she submitted Ishige in the second round of their exhilarating contest.
“After the match, I was happy, but I did not know what to do. Do I celebrate or do I cry?” the Filipina recalls. “I was really surprised because I did not expect the outcome. It was the first stoppage of my career.”
Despite her fiery performance in the cage, the 21-year old from Dipolog City, Mindanao, is actually a shy, soft-spoken girl with sincere eyes. However, unknown to many, her mild-mannered demeanour hides the adversity she dealt with in her childhood.
Abandoned, But Loved
Torres and her older brother were actually left under the care of their grandmother since they were infants.
Deprived of both parents, Torres still grew up to be a well-mannered lady, as her grandmother filled the void left by their absence. Despite not having a stable business as a source of income, her grandmother found ways to provide, such as picking up extra work at a school cafeteria. Her aunts also helped to raise the two children.
“My dad is in Zamboanga City, while my mom is in Basilan,” she reveals. “They each have their own families. Before, there was still anger in my heart because I did not know why they left, and why they broke up, but eventually, that anger disappeared.”
However, as a result of her circumstances, Torres was regularly picked on by some of her classmates.
“I was a really quiet girl, and I guess that enticed them to bully me even more,” she explains. However, that fire she shows in the cage today was already inherent back then. “I told them they should not mess with me because if I fought back, they would be sorry. I punched one and even earned a trip to the principal’s office.”
Despite the bullying, the abandonment from her parents, and the lack of any real role models, she still had her simple dreams.
“I really wanted to play basketball,” she quips. Having played in fiestas and for her school, she thought that she could eventually find a way to make a career out of her hobby. However, circumstances would not allow her to pursue that road.
“Instead of letting my grandmother work even more just to get me through college, I decided to stop going to school and find a job to help her out.”
Opportunities In The City
At that time, a friend of her aunt’s in Taguig, Manila, was looking for someone to take care of their newborn child. Her aunt would call Torres, who did not hesitate to take the job.
During her time as a nanny, she met Ruel Catalan, who frequented a gym near the school where the child she took care of was studying. While waiting for the child to finish school, Torres swung by the gym to watch the action.
For three years, the usually-active Torres was contained in a job where she could not feed her competitive spirit, and could only envy them from the sidelines. Watching people get fit, all while satisfying that craving for competition through martial arts enticed her.
“Coach Rene invited me and gave me an offer to consider. I tried training, and I have been there ever since,” she reveals. “I was a bit fat before. I only got fit here.”
Torres left her job as a nanny, and trained to become a full-time martial artist. With no martial arts background, it came as a shock for her when she was immediately booked for a match.
The Filipina took the nickname of “The Zamboanginian Fighter,” a simple nod to her hometown, and had her professional debut in August 2016 at a local show. She pulled off the unanimous decision victory, and from then, the Catalans knew they had a potential star on their hands.
“I trained for two months, and was surprised when I was told by my coach that I would be competing,” she says, “I took on the challenge so that I could experience a real match, and thankfully, I won.”
The Bright Lights Of ONE Championship
In May 2017, Torres was slated to make her ONE Championship debut against Thai superstar Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, but she was forced to back out of the contest. She could not apply for a passport because of a clerical error.
Fortunately, Coach Catalan helped get the matter resolved, and the bout was rescheduled for ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS. Despite feeling nervous in the moments leading up to her first international tilt, Torres was able to relax as soon as she stepped into the cage.
“My opponent was right in front of me, and all the people who supported me were all there,” she recalls. At that moment, she realized that she was not in a dream.
After a first round dominated by Ishige, Torres came back in the second with a mean right hook that dropped the Thai-Japanese atomweight.
“I got her with a good punch and I pounced,” she recalls. “I kept waiting for the ref to stop the bout, but he did not.” Torres then resorted to an unconventional rear-naked choke, which led to the then-undefeated “Tinydoll” to tap out.
The victory shocked everyone in attendance, including Torres and her teammates.
“They asked me where that choke move came from, because it surprised them,” she says, “I told them I surprised myself, too!”
The Next Challenge
While the 26-year-old Indonesian may not have much experience inside the cage, she is actually a very accomplished martial artist. Dea is a national wrestling champion and a two-time national sanda champion, who also a well-versed kickboxer with a 12-4 record in the discipline.
Still, Torres is riding a wave of momentum, and is confident she will win yet again.
“From what I saw, I think she is a striker,” she says. “She does not seem to hit the ground all that much. I am prepared to go toe-to-toe or take the match to the ground, wherever I think I have the advantage.”
“The Zamboanginian Fighter” is singularly focused on the task at hand, but she is not short on motivation. She is driven by making life better for her loved ones, and the people who have continuously supported her.
“I want to help my grandmother,” she says. “I want to give back to my gym, and the people who love and support me. I am competing for my country. Everything I do is for all of them, and as long as I can do this, I will keep doing this.”
The world may not have known about Torres prior to her shocking victory last August, but with her drive and dedication, it may not be long before she puts the spotlight on herself for good.