Loma Lookboonmee became the first ever MMA Thai fighter to step foot in the Octagon — and win — in the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. AskrenSportskeeda reports that Lookboonmee won her UFC debut against Russia’s Aleksandra Albu via split decision.

In round 1 Lookboonmee was bothered by Albu constantly tugging and clinging onto her shirt (causing a big tear). For round 2, Lookboonmee ditched her shirt and began outworking the Russian. With the win, the young Thai disproved our prediction that Albu would be victorious due to her experience.

A fighting prodigy

Lookboonmee isn’t some run-of-the-mill fighter. India Times describes her as a prodigy in Muay Thai who started fighting in her younger years, and before long she started competing in sanctioned fights. Lookboonmee got very good very quickly, to the point that she began taking on, and beating, male fighters, too.

Now Lookboonmee is looking to take her prodigious talent to the next level. And she has taken to MMA to accomplish that goal. Last year Lookboonmee got her first taste of MMA action by way of Invicta, where she won both of her of fights (unanimous decision wins over Melissa Wang and Monique Adriane, both in 2018). She also fought at Pancrase 298, where she stopped Japan’s Hana Yamada, and at Full Metal Dojo 16, where she suffered her lone MMA loss so far versus compatriot Suwanan Boonsorm.

Building her legacy

Lookboonmee is a Muay Thai star in Thailand. She has won nine Muay Thai national championships, plus a gold medal in the 2018 IFMA World Championship. She has already built a legacy in Thailand’s most famous sport, and has very little to prove in it. But Lookboonmee is by and large a novice in MMA, and she is determined to carve her own mark in the world’s fastest growing sport.

Breathing life to Muay Thai

Loma Lookboonmee succeeding in MMA will be big for Muay Thai, too. A Southeast Asia Globe long form article on Muay Thai describes the sport as “in danger of extinction.” That’s because live gate attendance has been decreasing sharply, as Thais now have increased access to international sports through television and the internet.

This increased access is killing a beloved sport, but is allowing another world to flourish around international sports like MMA. An ExpatBets guide to the sports betting industry in Thailand details how despite there being a ban on nearly all forms of wagering, the industry is thriving. Many fans now bet on international sports such as football, basketball (the NBA, in particular), eSports, and MMA. Even though this thriving industry has taken away from Muay Thai’s once massive following, many still attend live events to bet on fights legally.

But if Lookboonmee can continue her winning ways in the UFC, she just might breathe life back to the art of eight limbs. She’s always been proud of her Muay Thai roots, and she is someone Thais can rally around. Loma Lookboonmee has already vowed that she’ll keep getting better. Judging by her debut Lookboonmee looks primed for some UFC success, just like fellow Asian (and potential would-be foe) Zhang Weili (the current strawweight queen).