AT first glance, Jewel Dumaran looks like an ordinary teenage girl, but you’ll know that she’s far from the average teenager when she enters the ring and starts to unleash those solid punches and high kicks.

The 19-year-old of Yaw-Yan ArDigma Cebu is one of the few female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in Cebu, and even in the Philippines, who thrives in a sport that’s known as a man’s world.

Dumaran’s introduction to MMA started eight years ago when most of the girls at her age of 11 were playing with dolls. It helped that the owner and founder of Yaw-Yan ArDigma Cebu, Master Benigno “Ekin” Caniga Jr., is her uncle-in-law.

“I chose MMA as my sport because I wanted to learn self-defense so I can protect myself if ever I’ll be in a dangerous situation,” Dumaran said, adding that what started as a hobby became her serious sport.

She then started joining tournaments like the Batang Pinoy Games, where she won a bronze medal in 2015 and a silver medal the following year as part of the Cebu City Team.

Eight years into the sport, Dumaran has now put to heart the discipline that comes with MMA training. She wants to use this in chasing her ultimate dream, which is to serve the people as a policewoman.

The Grade 12 student of Southwestern University-Phinma encourages other teenagers to never fear to try new things, including getting into a sport that they’re not familiar with.

“Aside from discipline, MMA is a very good workout for fitness,” she said. “This is helpful to me since I’m planning to take up Criminology in college.”

For his part, Caniga said female fighters are rare to find in the Philippines, but there are a lot of practitioners of the sport who are doing it for fitness.

“(Dumaran) started training with me when she was 11. My constant reminder to her is to balance sports and her studies, which she has done well,” Caniga said.

Caniga said Yaw-Yan ArDigma Cebu gladly welcomes females who are interested in MMA for fitness and exercise since the sport is for everyone and is proven to be safe contrary to the public’s notion.

“If you talk about weight loss, an MMA program is one of the best for that. You can see results, especially if you strictly follow the training program,” explained Caniga.

Yaw-Yan ArDigma Cebu started operating again in October last year after months of hiatus brought by the Covid-19 scare. The gym follows the health protocol imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force, Department of Health and the national government.

For those interested, Yaw-Yan ArDigma is located on the fourth floor of Coast Pacific Downtown Center, Sanciangko St., Cebu City across the University of Cebu main campus. It can be reached through its contact number at 0943-365-8900 or on its official Facebook page.