ABU DHABI – As an up-and-comer in Invicta FC’s atomweight division, Loma Lookboonmee naturally had her eyes on the champion.
The 105-pound titleholder at the time happened to be Jinh Yu Frey, whom Lookboonmee (4-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) now finds herself facing in the UFC, but at a higher weight class.
The two will square off in a strawweight clash Saturday at UFC on ESPN 16, which takes place at Flash Forum on Yas Island. The main card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN+.
So while Frey (9-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) was on Lookboonmee’s radar, she wasn’t projecting that she’d face her in the UFC.
“When I first signed with Invicta, I fought at 105 pounds, so naturally I looked at who the champ was at that weight,” Lookboonmee told MMA Junkie. “That was Jinh Yu Frey, and I thought to myself that someday I’d be fighting her for the Invicta title. But I didn’t think that I’d be fighting her in the UFC.”[lawrence-related id=555999,555893,555894
Lookboonmee is 1-1 since joining the UFC roster, picking up a split decision over Aleksandra Albu in her promotional debut last October, then suffering a unanimous decision loss to Angela Hill in February.
She is also the first Thai fighter to ever get signed to the UFC, having done it less than three years into her pro MMA career. She comes from a decorated muay Thai background and transitioned to MMA so she can continue to challenge herself.
“I reached the point in muay Thai where I hit the pinnacle and felt I needed to change my career path because I won everything there was to win,” Lookboonmee said. “I won championships, I made the national team, I won medals. As a woman in muay Thai, it’s different because we don’t get paid as much as the men in stadiums like Lumpinee and Rajadamnern. I felt like doing something different and finding something new for myself, so MMA was perfect.”
She continued, “I’m very grateful that I’m the first Thai in the history of the UFC. It’s the biggest fight promotion in the world. When I signed with the UFC, I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep for a whole week. I was so excited. Now, there are more Thai people interested in MMA, and I think that we’ll see more people in the UFC in the future.”
Lookboonmee will look to show off her standup skills and is confident that if she realizes her full potential, she’ll be able to make a run in the strawweight division.
“My background is obviously striking dominant, and I think this is going to be a fun fight,” Lookboonmee said. “I don’t like saying that I’ll definitely win all the time, but I’m showing up to win. I’m here to make everybody proud and to put on a show. When I’m at my best, I’m unstoppable. Stylistically, she’s a southpaw, so that probably plays to her strengths.”