British-Filipina atomweight Natalie Gonzales Hills (1-4-0) returns to the cage this Saturday at ONE: Kings of Destiny against Gina Iniong (4-2-0). Over 12 months removed from action, she views it as not only an opportunity to showcase her physical improvements, but more importantly, her improved mindset.
No stranger to adversity, Gonzales Hills looks to return to the win column after valiant defeats in the ONE cage to April Osenio and current atomweight champion Angela Lee. Making the educated decision to fully rehab her arm after injuring it in the Osenio fight had the additional benefit of time to re-evaluate her mental fight perspective.
“With that last fight, the most frustrating for me was that I came to the Philippines early to get climatized,” Gonzales Hills explained from Albuquerque in a phone interview to MMA Crossfire. “I was there the hottest time of year. I went early and prepared on my striking at a boxing gym. For me, the biggest thing I’ve worked on since that fight is mindset because I get far too excited. As soon as the bell goes, I’ve had a tendency in the past to run in there and I didn’t stick to my game plan. So for me, I was very frustrated that I didn’t get to strike. I didn’t showcase the skills I was working on. So for this fight, the main thing I want to do is keep my composure, work the game plan and show what I can do.”
The 29-year-old “Kilapino,” who has been training at the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy since mid-February, will be welcoming Iniong, a fellow Filipino, to the ONE cage.
“I have lot of respect for Team Lakay. Their conditions and striking is what they are famous for,” Gonzales Hills said. “In recent years, They have been working on their grappling and submissions too. Anyone you face in this game is going to be well-rounded so, the thing I think will make an interesting fight is that I’m a fast starter. I tend to get in there right away and I know she’s very aggressive too, so I think that makes for a good matchup.
“I think she has a couple of submissions, I’ve had two as well (including amateur fights),” Gonzales Hills continued. “But I have faith in my grappling; I just haven’t had a chance to show off that side of my game since I’ve been in ONE. We both have submissions on our records, so it will be interesting to see what happens come fight night.”
“I haven’t had easy fights. If people want to underestimate me, that’s fine. I feel like I put on exciting fights and I have a lot to give.”
There’s no disputing the fact that Gonzales Hills puts on exciting fights, but the wins need to follow. To that end, she worked with a sports psychologist and mind coach to help sharpen her mental game. Training with Jackson-Wink’s Joey Villasenor, Frank Lester, Jodie Esquibel and Michelle Waterson among others, didn’t hurt either.
Given her interesting backstory, underestimating her is a mistake she hopes fighters make.
“Yes, they may do because my record doesn’t look too great, but there’s something that you can’t tell from a record,” Gonzales Hill said. “I’ve had quite a lot of experience. When I first started fighting, I competed upper-weight class. I didn’t have to weight cut to compete in Australia. Everyone was always bigger than me and when I got signed to ONE. I’m still very young in my career and you’re learning as you go, so it’s a very big stage to be learning on,” she laughed.
“So for me, I don’t think about the record too much,” Gonzales Hills said thoughtfully. “I put more stock into my story. I feel like I haven’t been able to show it off yet. I feel like I have the will to win.”