This weekend, ONE Championship’s Smilla Sundell returns to action. The 18-year-old Muay Thai champion will look to defend her title against Allycia Hellen Rodrigues in the co-main event of One Fight Night 14 in Kallang, Singapore. Sundell took some time to speak with Bloody Elbow about her career, being such a young champion and competing in ONE Championship.
Sundell found her way into combat sports when she and her parents were on holiday in Koh Samui, Thailand. Being in the homeland of Muay Thai, where the sport is still wildly popular, exposure to fighting there was nearly unavoidable.
“The first time I saw Muay Thai was on a holiday in Thailand, Koh Samui,” Sundell said. “I was there with my family. There were 2 guys hitting pads outside Solo Bar. Chaweng Stadium was just around the corner. The next evening we all went there and I saw my first fights there. I got one coupon to a gym for a session. We went there a few days after and I had my first training there. The gym was Yodyut Muay Thai. Later when we moved to Thailand I started training there.”
After watching her first live fights after seeing the sport for the first time, the thrill of winning captivated Sundell. “Seeing people winning and happy after their fights was fun for me.”
But beginning her own journey through the sport wasn’t as automatic. The jitters of fighting were there, especially for someone looking to jump into competition so young. But she kept at it. She kept winning and eventually she fell in love. “My first three fights I didn’t want to fight. I won by knockout. Then after the third KO win, it was fun because I won. And I like winning.”
Outside of fighting, the 18-year-old says she’s just like any other kid. She hangs out with friends, has a dog and is a movie-head.
“I like to hang out with my friends. I like to eat. I like to be with my dog, Stitch, and watch movies.”
Hanging with friends is instrumental to everyone’s development in young adulthood. It builds a foundation into adulthood. Smilla Sundell is not letting her status as a champion take being a teen away from her.
“When I’m with my friends we go out to eat and watch movies. I’ve been trying new restaurants. I eat chicken and beef. Shabu places, mainly. We watch any movie that looks good from the trailers. I’ve seen the new Minions movie. I watched the Barbie movie with people. I like the Marvel movies. I like comedies too. My favorite actor are The Rock and Kevin Hart.”
The young Muay Thai champion
It is not uncommon for a young athlete in the sport of Muay Thai to ascend through the ranks. But it’s still a remarkable accomplishment. Being young and a champion is something all kids dream of, be it NBA, boxing, or any other sport. While the life of a pro athlete requires a lot of sacrifice and dedication, Sundell says her time with ONE has been nothing but a positive.
“It feels great. When I first heard of ONE I was in Samui. Since that day my goal was to become one of the champions in that organization. I believe it’s the best organization in the world.”
After winning the title, Sundell did what any 18 year old would do: McDonald’s.
“After I won the belt I sat in my room eating McDonald’s. It took me a few hours to realize what happened. It was a blur. It was during Covid so I couldn’t go out. I got Mcdonald’s chicken nuggets. It did it for me.”
Smilla Sundell: Fighting adults
The thought of fighting an adult as a kid is always met with a bit of apprehension. But for Smilla Sundell, it’s simply the reality of her situation. She thrives under the pressure of a challenge.
She says, “I always fought people older than me. It’s normal to me. I’ve fought people heavier than me. That’s more scary. For example I fought Fahseethong. I was 57 kilograms and we fought at 59 kilograms. She was 63 kilos the night of the fight. I also fought many heavy girls back in the day. No one wanted to fight me except for bigger girls.”
Being champion should come with pressure. Sundell lives in that pressure. “I always put pressure on myself. With or without any belts.”
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Originally, Sundell was supposed to fight Jackie Buntan for her first title defense. But when Buntan withdrew, Allycia Hellen Rodrigues stepped in. That doesn’t change the mission nor the game plan for Smilla Sundell, however.
“I stick to my plan. My trainer takes care of me and I listen. They don’t really have me doing different things. I put the pressure in the fights. I do me.”
So for Sundell, the training, hard work and more come to a head on September 29th. She pitches a reason to tune in.
“It will be a great fight. They don’t want to miss this! It will be a war. Then afterwards I will get McDonald’s.”
Kids and their McDonald’s…
“I’d love for McDonald’s to reach out to me. It’s my go to after fights. I love promoting them. I’m loving it! Big chicken nuggets fan.”
Closing on a positive note, Sundell gives advice to all the young women around the world to do what they want to do to make their lives better.
“Believe in yourself and work hard for your goals. Do what you love to do. You don’t have to be a fighter like me, even a small change can be good for you.”
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