Kazakhstan’s Ayan Tursyn love of MMA runs deep. It began five years ago when she saw Ronda Rousey enter the Octagon. At that moment, Tursyn knew where her future lay. She was no stranger to combat sports, having spent a good portion of her life until then training in Taekwondo. However, the now 26-year-old was searching for a new challenge to spark her competitive spirit, and she found it in MMA.
“I practiced Taekwondo for ten years but decided to stop competing. However, after a while, I realized I could not live without sports. I watched girls overseas competing in MMA, and I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Tursyn says.
The only problem standing in her way was that the sport was still so new that amateur events were not open to females in Kazakhstan. However, undeterred, Tursyn took a leap of faith and began training, hoping that the situation would change over time, similar to how it had for the country’s female boxers.
In 2017, her hard work paid off as the Kazakhstan MMA federation arranged a series of demonstration bouts for amateur female MMA fighters. Tursyn’s initial foray into competitive MMA did not go entirely as planned, but the experience cemented her love of the sport.
” I performed very well, but I lost. It was the first time a female competition was being held, and the judges treated the girls very carefully. Unfortunately, the referee stopped my fight early after my opponent attempted an armbar. After this bout, I decided I wanted to become a fighter.”
Inspired by her first outing in the cage, Tursyn returned to training with a vengeance and has gone on to become one of IMMAF’s most highly regarded female amateur fighters. She is currently sitting No.2 in the women’s atomweight division after picking up gold and silver at the 2019 IMMAF Asian Open Championship and World Championship, respectively.
Tursyn is known for her explosive fan-friendly fighting style, thanks partly to her Taekwondo background, and the Almaty-based fighter has made no secret of her desire to reach the professional ranks.
“I really look forward to my fights and prepare myself daily, not only physically, but also mentally and psychologically. I am planning on turning professional when the pandemic ends. Time passes quickly and women have a shorter time frame in sports than men,” she explains.
Tursyn still has some unfinished business she wants to take care of as an amateur. The IMMAF European Championships start August 16 in Kazan, Russia, followed by November’s World Championships. The tournaments offer Tursyn a chance to finally capture a world title and earn the number one spot in the atomweight division. In addition, the fact that the world championships will be held in Kazakhstan provides her with an extra incentive to claim gold.
“It gives me a lot of motivation, and it is a huge responsibility to perform in the homeland and defend our country’s honor. If the competition is held with spectators, our fans always actively support their fighters, and we will try not to let them down,” she says, talking about November’s IMMAF World Championships.
“I have a goal. I train every day. I am experienced enough. I have everything I need to become a champion. I will do my best to become number one.”
Tursyn’s, like athletes around the world, has had her training disrupted over the last 12 months by the outbreak of Covid-19, but she and her coach have worked hard to ensure her skills remained sharp during this period.
” It wasn’t easy without being able to train in the gym. I live in the countryside, but our city was closed due to a pandemic and transport was stopped. So I rode a bike to the city for training. It was about 22 km in each direction.
” We trained wherever possible, in the park, in the mountains. On the one hand, it was difficult, but we also found good opportunities to train in new settings.”
Women’s MMA is still developing in Kazakhstan, and Tursyn aims to help inspire the next generation of female Kazakhstani athletes to take up the sport. She knows that when competing on the world stage, she represents herself and her nation and endeavors to follow the lessons taught to her by her parents when she was growing up.
“Our parents never demanded anything from us [Her and her brother]. For my parents, the main thing was that no matter what we did, follow it through to the end and always be a good person.”
Ayan Tursyn Key Facts
- Trained in Taekwondo for ten years before making the switch to MMA
- Competed in Kazakhstan inaugural amateur MMA competition for female fighters
- Cycled 22km each way to train when transport was paused in her city because of Covid-19
- She has a successful Tik Tok channel