'Mighty' May Ooi retires from combat sports
At age 42, a former Olympic swimmer and ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title contender announced her decision to step away from elite combat competition.
In a Facebook post released on Monday afternoon, “Mighty” May Ooi reflected candidly on her mixed martial arts journey as she announced her retirement from the sport.
Unlike the more somber tones normally expected of farewell messages, none was present in the Singaporean icon's message to her teammates, friends, family, and fans.
Titled “Thank You For The Love & Support,” Ooi paid tribute to the people who had stood by her side throughout her martial arts journey.
“My late coach Silvio, my current coach Takeo, my teammates and sparring partners, my Capoeira students, parents and team of instructors for being patient,” she begins in her message.
She goes on to credit several organizations she has worked with, saying, “JJAS (Ju-Jitsu Association of Singapore) and SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) for believing in me and taking a leap of faith and ONE Championship for giving me the opportunity to compete in your organization.”
Despite her competitive swimming background, Ooi’s initial foray into mixed martial arts was not unchartered waters.
A seasoned capoeira instructor, the “Mighty” pioneer also ran a studio in Brazil where she picked up “the gentle art" known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Inspired to pass down the graces of capoeira to the younger generation, she returned to Singapore to teach at her own school.
It was only through several training sessions she had with BJJ legend Royler Gracie that Ooi was moved to compete and test her skills on the amateur circuit.
Competing in Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia for several promotions, the Singaporean impressed. In July 2017, she was signed by the world’s largest martial arts organization, ONE Championship, to a professional contract.
Quickly picking up two wins over Malaysian veteran Ann Osman and Cambodia’s Vy Srey Khouch to close out the year, Ooi spent 2018 to prepare for yet another competitive challenge – representing her country in Jiu-Jitsu at the 2018 Asian Games.
Although she failed to make it past the first round, her dedication towards training was a reminder to everyone that her competitive fire was still burning bright.
While remaining undecided if she wanted to return for the 2019 Asian Games, it now appears that her last performance on the mat in Indonesia would mark the swan song in a competitive career spanning nearly three decades.
Many expected a renewed push towards the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title in 2019, but the Singaporean is choosing to utilize her experiences in ONE Championship and martial arts as a platform to motivate others.
Even as she departs the ONE cage undefeated, “Mighty” is not resting on her laurels.
Instead, she is enthusiastic about her new endeavors in motivational speaking and helping to empower younger female athletes in Singapore.
A former national athlete who represented the nation in swimming at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Ooi is the ideal ambassador to help elevate the local sports scene.
“Mighty” is already making waves in this new space. She was recently appointed as one of the sporting personalities to be featured in the Singapore Tourism Board’s latest campaign “Passion Made Possible.”
Sharing her optimism for playing a role in building Singapore’s sporting future, Ooi thanked her fans for their support.
“I was never alone in this amazing journey. Your support was overwhelming and unconditional,” she says. “I will need your continuing support as I play a different role in Singapore’s sporting arena.”
The evolution of a martial artist is a constant quest for self-improvement in skill, knowledge, and humility.
Although her exemplary commitment to all of the above is well-documented, she is practicing the values of honor and discipline in the way she lives her life.
Ooi defied age and expectations throughout her competitive career in swimming and martial arts, and she is still challenging others to swim against the tides.
She is living proof to athletes and martial artists everywhere that by continually striving hard to improve in all aspects of their lives, they, too, can become a source of inspiration for others.