Micronesia (formally known as the Federated States of Micronesia) is a small country located in the western Pacific Ocean and it is composed of more than 60 islands and islets in the Caroline Islands archipelago. Micronesia along with the Republic of the Marshal Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands were administrated by the United States to form the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1947 to 1986. Currently the country has a population of 106,571.
One of its citizens has the potential to be one of MMA’s next stars, her name is Jennifer Chieng.
The now 32-year-old Chieng was born in the United States and lived in Maryland until she was four years old. Then she moved to Micronesia where she lived till she moved to Hawaii for high school. Her parents wanted her and her family to grow up in the culture of the country they were originally from. Chieng’s childhood was enjoyable and taught her a lot but it was a bit different than that of those who live in the United States, movies and video games weren’t available to entertain her during her youth.
“It’s a super self-sufficient culture, because when you grow up on an island there is limited resources so you’re kinda taught to be resourceful and that’s how you’re brought up. My childhood was, I spent a lot of time doing outdoorsy things with my siblings and with my cousins. We would go fishing, you would learn how to weave thatch roof, you learned to build your own raft, your own spears, anything you would need to survive out on an island we kinda did as child’s play.”
Organized sports weren’t available and neither was boxing or any other martial art during Chieng’s childhood. Instead, she found martial arts through old boxing tapes and movies.
“The videos and movies we would had running at home were always, we’d have Bruce Lee on TV, my dad would watch old boxing tapes of Ali. It was always on tv in my household. I was always interested and drawn to it even though I didn’t really know anything else about martial arts. But I knew for sure I was interested in it.”
Chieng’s first interaction with a combat sport came in high school when she wanted to become a part of the wrestling team at her high school. However, her parents didn’t support her choice and she didn’t join the team. She also declined to participate in other sports in high school, particularly team sports because of a trait that would help her today in her martial arts career.
“The responsibility or the loss, it has to be all mine or not mine at all.”
In 2008, after completing her undergraduate work, Chieng moved to New York City to work in finance and begin her formal boxing training. There were no expectations of her pursuing a career professionally. It was only after her first sparring session that she knew she wanted to compete. From there her interest and passion for the sport kept on growing and her talent led her to find out how far she could truly go.
“They announced they were going to include the women’s division in the 2012 Olympics, prior to that, the highest stage you could compete on was the worlds. For me, I didn’t have anything planned, I just knew I wanted to compete and see how far I could take it. It just started to unfold as I went along. So it’s like, if I could win this fight or this tournament, what’s the one after this, oh let me see if I could do that one, that’s how it went for me.”
And went it did, in 2012 it was announced that the Olympics would add women’s boxing and Chieng was recruited by Micronesia to train and represent her country in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. For Chieng, the experience was one she never thought she’d have.
“It was really surreal for me, I never in a million years would I have thought that I’d had that experience.”
Chieng didn’t medal at the Olympics but accomplished a dream she didn’t know what was possible. She became an ambassador for her sport, a celebrity at home and a role model for younger generations.
“I always get a really big and warm welcome when I’m back there. The last time I visited, it was a great back home visit from all around. I think that was the first time I had scheduled lunches, dinners, events with government officials, met with all these different schools and colleges and community centers. I definitely felt great because it felt like I was giving back in some way. Even if it was just to give some inspiration because it is a small country and there are a lot of firsts that I’ve managed to accomplish representing such a small country. If it provides a little bit of inspiration to the younger generation out there then it makes me feel good. It also makes me wonder what else I can do to help give back to my community.”
In 2015, Chieng started dabbling Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu lessons and the more she did, the more she enjoyed it. After the Olympics, Chieng started to follow the rise in popularity in women’s MMA and decided to further dabble in the sport. Her passion continued as she spent more time training and it eventually led her into the cage. Now she trains at Renzo Gracie’s gym in New York alongside UFC flyweight contender Katlyn Chookagian and Invicta FC flyweight Erin Blanchfield. Recently, she made her professional debut at Bellator 208 and won in decisive fashion, finishing her opponent in the first round.
Now, Chieng is focused on the next adventure, in which she of course stumbled upon, a fitness book called: Badass Boxing Workouts: A Hard-Hitting Program to Smash Stress, Have Fun and Get in the Best Shape of Your Life, which is available for preorder now on Amazon and her personal website: Jennifer-chieng.com and copies are available on January 15.
Chieng never planned to author a book but when the opportunity presented itself, she couldn’t say no.
“It’s another thing that I stumbled upon on my path.”
“The publisher, Ulysses Press, they reached out to me because they wanted someone to author a boxing for fitness book. They follow the fitness trends these days and the trend now a days is group fitness. A lot of people like to do work outs and they like to do specialized types of training like cardio kickboxing, cardio boxing, something that is different, not your typical group fitness.”
“It’s a lot of instruction things, it’s for beginners who want to start their journey in fitness and explore it through boxing.”
So far, Chieng’s life has been quite an adventure. Moving between one of the largest countries in the world and one of the world’s smallest, to trying out boxing for fun and then competing in the Olympics, from Wall Street to a hero’s welcome in Micronesia, time in a cage and time with a pen. Chieng will look to continue her path in combat sports as she will compete in a Jiu Jitsu tournament on January 25 and hopefully return to the cage in March.
But Chieng will not commit to one goal or one career path, she just plans on stumbling upon it.
You can order Chieng’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/Badass-Boxing-Workouts-Hard-Hitting-Program/dp/161243875X
Or here: https://www.jennifer-chieng.com/shop