Meet Park Ji Hye, Not Just Another Korean Mixed Martial Arts Beauty
D-Bo , Jan. 29, 2015, 10:05 a.m.
Park Ji-hye is a female mixed martial artist who is about to make her professional debut at the ROAD Fighting Championship 021 on Feb. 1. In a sport dominated by men, she has sometimes struggled to be taken seriously, with spectators often focusing on her beauty rather than her technique.
"I don't care about the comments on my looks because my face will bleed, bruise and swell after I take some hits," she said while practicing at a studio in Yongin, Gyeonggi. "I want to be recognized as a true fighter for my two fists and feet instead of my face."
Park stumbled into marital arts in 2011 after quitting college and working odd jobs at wedding halls and gas stations. She got a new part-time job at a fitness center and fell in love with a coworker who is a mixed martial art fighter. That changed her life. She started to learn the sport for fun with her boyfriend, who is now her husband, and decided to take it seriously after watching ROAD FC matches later that year.
"No other experience can match the excitement I felt at a fight," she said. "The splendid display of technique and passionate reaction from the crowd made my heart pound."
Park's legs are often bruised as she spends all of her time training outside of her part-time job at a coffee shop. In a typical day, she arrives at the gym at 6 a.m. and doesn't leave until 11 p.m.
As there are only five registered female fighters in Korea, Park often trains with male partners in the same weight class, but she still takes a beating -- even rupturing an ankle tendon in March.
She's been trying to lose weight ahead of her debut, with the difficult goal of dropping from 58kg to 48kg in just about 10 days. She sticks to carbs for breakfast and lunch and salad for dinner. Right now, she weighs 51 to 53 kg.
Park will face Japan's Miyu Irie, who has trained since elementary school. Experts say Irie has an upper hand in terms of technique, but Park can use her height and long limbs to her advantage.