Her ambition to excel in MMA was also inspired by the increasingly high profile of Myanmar-born fighters.
The most well-known — and Bozhena’s hero — is Aung La Nsang, an ethnic Kachin nicknamed the “Burmese Python” who holds both middleweight and light heavyweight world titles for One Championship.
The 34-year-old was even voted 2019 International Fighter of the Year at Las Vegas-based World MMA Awards.
Bozhena’s career is still in its infancy, but she is already proving a formidable foe. In a knuckle-biting battle in July against Vietnamese-American fighter Bi Nguyen, the judges favoured her in a split decision.
She has gained fans across Myanmar, including within her once-disapproving community, she says with a smile. “Now when I have a fight, my house is packed with people who come to watch,” she said.
Social norms aside, Bozhena decries the lack of support for women wanting to get in the ring, saying men are more readily offered sponsorship deals and high-profile fights.
“There should be no gender discrimination,” she said, explaining that was the reason she left the lethwei arena for MMA.
Despite the challenges the trailblazer vowed to fight on. “I miss the days when I could be beautiful and feminine, but I prefer the path I have chosen.”