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Get know India's 'Knockout Queen,' Asha Roka

Boxing specialist aims to knock out Alyse Anderson at Friday's ONE 157.
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Asha "Knockout Queen" Roka (4-2) has enjoyed a stellar career in boxing, and she hopes her extensive knowledge in the "sweet science" could help her reach similar heights in MMA.

The Indian-Nepalese fighter takes the next step in her MMA journey on Friday, as she is scheduled to meet American star Alyse "Lil' Savage" Anderson (5-2) on the lead card of "ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot."

Though she respects her atomweight opponent, Roka expects to live up to her moniker.

"I think we'll have a great fight," the 23-year-old said. "There's a good possibility that I connect with my punch at the right moment, and it could be a knockout."

Roka's striking capabilities are up there with some of the best fighters in her weight class. That shouldn't be too surprising, though, considering that she got her start in martial arts with "the sweet science."

The Indian had played basketball at the local sports academy, but she picked up the stand-up fighting discipline through her brother, a cricketer who was keen to give boxing a go.

"One day, I went with him to the academy just casually to explore and to know what martial arts is," she vividly recalled.

"I saw that a lot of girls and boys were doing boxing practice together. I felt this was very attractive and very unique, so I decided to join."

Roka's expedition in one of the world's oldest combat sports began in 2009. Back then, she was just 11 years old. It didn't take long for the youngster to impress her coach, who encouraged her to participate in classes more regularly.

The Bhopal native committed herself to the grind and soon received a well-deserved opportunity to join her state's boxing team.

"I was able to do pretty well on the first day of my training, so the coach invited me there for practice, and that's when my boxing career started," she said.

The Indian was so dedicated to her new endeavor, she left her home to stay in the athletes' housing quarters at the academy. This allowed her to strictly focus on her training, maintain the right diet, and even cut off time she wasted traveling from her parents' house to practice.

It was a bold move, given her age, but it was a decision that paid off over the next couple of years.

Roka racked up a plethora of local, national, and international titles, alongside the bronze medal in the 2013 World Championships in Bulgaria when she was only 15 years old.

"I won a gold medal in my first international competition, then the biggest of all is the World Championships," she said.

However, her plans to progress in the sport took a huge hit as amateur boxing was suspended in India for three years.

Competitions came to an abrupt end, and several boxers – including Roka – decided to change their paths to another combat sports discipline that was picking up steam.

"I was watching some mixed martial arts fights on TV, and then I got attracted to it. I thought there was no harm in trying, so I took a break from boxing and tried mixed martial arts," she shared.

Once again, she had to leave home to pursue her ambitions. This time, however, the gym Roka wanted to train at was more than 400 miles away from her hometown.

Unsurprisingly, her family was not thrilled with her decision.

"My father and mother were very upset. They told me several times to rejoin the academy. Many people told me to go back, but I did what I wanted to do," Roka said.

There, she transformed herself into a complete MMA fighter while polishing her knowledge in "the sweet science."

The opportunity to share the ring and mats with higher-level teammates provided her a chance to box professionally while competing in MMA at the same time.

In boxing, "Knockout Queen" earned four wins and a draw. Her displays inside the ring were so good, one of India's leading MMA promotions offered her a few fights.

She stormed through her first four opponents with ease. Roka smashed her way to a 9-second debut win before following up with three more first-round finishes – all achieved under the two-minute mark.

Unfortunately, that unbeaten streak came to an end when she faced Stamp Fairtex in her ONE Championship debut in August 2019. In her sophomore appearance five months later, she suffered another tough loss to Gina Iniong.

Defeats, however, are all part of the game. And Roka will be looking to change her fortunes and kick-start her road to atomweight glory on Friday.

But it all starts with her fight against Anderson.

"I must win this fight, so the pressure is there," she said. "I am working hard to win this match."