May Ooi: From Olympics & Medical School to MMA Fighter

“Pursue your dreams, don’t be afraid to do that. Live your passion”. That is what ex- SEA games and Olympic swimmer May Ooi advices and lives by. 


Besides her achievements in the swimming arena, Ooi gave up being a doctor to pursue her passion in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), noting that for her, ‘it was a natural process into MMA’. This decision opened up many doors for her, allowing her to have her first professional debut this coming August. Her interest in martial arts piqued when she started doing Capoeira and Jiu Jit Su and eventually MMA. She chose MMA because she wanted to learn how to defend herself; this also is how she met her coach and fiancé, Romero. He has been ‘working very hard to hone [her] skills’.


Recalling back to how her MMA career started, ‘like everyone else, I started out recreationally and for me, recreationally means I train everyday, rain or shine, making it a habit’. Being as active as she is, she is one who cannot sit still, she has to be doing something, be it Capoeira, Jiu Jit Su or Muay Thai. ‘If I’m not doing MMA, I’m walking on my hands, doing cartwheels, if not I’m held up in the ocean surfing.’


When asked about how being a competitive swimmer before has helped her get this far in the MMA field, she smiled and told us that by ‘just having a disciplined life, nutrition and training; it just transitions to easily into training for MMA’. Many of us find it difficult to give up our beloved desserts and snacks, but Ooi finds that not an issue at all, the only weakness she has is coffee. Aside from that, the ‘strength and conditioning [she] got from swimming is definitely a plus, as now [she] only has to try and maintain it’.


Ooi has been training everyday for her upcoming professional debut in August at Rebel Fighting Championship, her longest break has been 2 weeks and other than that, she trains everyday. ‘I’m constantly training and now slower to the fight I’m just tidying up some things, doing my strategies.’ She has increased the intensity of her training but just enough to refrain from injuries. 


Apart from her professional MMA career, Ooi and her fiancé run the Brazilian Culture and Sports Centre as well as the Brazilian Fight Club MMA, which has outlets in both Singapore and Bali. Ooi teaches many classes a day and handles the business and administration. She admits that it is tiring as she teaches children as young as 3, which takes up a lot of effort.


At the age of 37, Ooi is starting later than most fighters in the industry, but she does not let this fact get her down. She is confident of her skills and knows that she is ‘probably in better shape than most 20 year olds’, hence no comparison can be made using age.


Talking about her future plans about her MMA career, she shares with us that her ultimate goal is that she wants to prove to the younger generation, especially the females, ‘that it is possible to chase your dreams and achieve it, don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot’. Ooi had given up being a doctor to pursue her passion in MMA; something most of us would not even think of doing; making her the perfect example of someone who is brave enough to chase their own dreams, regardless of what others say.

You can catch May in action on 1 August at Rebel Fighting Championship (FC) Battle Royale Night at Suntec Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Written by Inez Leong

Inez is currently studying in NUS Business School. Her interest in sports stemmed from her love for hurdling and her hobbies include playing her ukulele and trying out new things. 

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