A local Muay Thai fighter has won a national championship by unanimous decision in New York.

Joanna Marquez took home the top prize at the United States Muay Thai Open, which took place on Nov. 4 and 5, having defeated her opponent to jump to the top spot of her division through a newly implemented ranking system devised by the United States Muay Thai Federation. This ranking will get her the opportunity to compete at a high level internationally, and possibly represent the U.S. team in international bouts.

Jonathan Puu, owner and head instructor at Pu’u Muay Thai in Ventura, says that Marquez trained hard for her victory.

“The girl that she fought was much bigger than her, but that’s usually something she’s accustomed to,” said Puu, noting that Marquez fights at her normal weight. In competitive fighting, fighters will often cut weight before a tournament, but Marquez has no need to. “In Muay Thai, you can throw, knee, go off balance and elbow and control someone and wear them out and use strikes from close range. I knew this person would be a heavy clinch fighter and had her play this game that my trainer called hit and run, stick and move. In other words, hit and not be there when the person is there to return fire.”

Puu has led his team of fighters to two international tournaments this year alone one in China and one in Thailand. Puu Muay Thai boasts five nationally ranked competitors, says Puu.

Muay Thai fighting is a style that implements the fists, elbows, knees and shins, as well as several grappling techniques. Famous Muay Thai practitioners include mixed-martial arts fighters George St-Pierre and Gina Carano.

Puu opened up his studio in 2015 but has been training since 2006. Puu met renowned Muay Thai officiator Dej Sri-Ampai, also known as “Knokweed,” and trained with the master in North Hollywood before landing a position in an Oxnard gym and, eventually, opening his own studio in midtown Ventura.

Marquez followed Puu from Oxnard. Now, she juggles a full-time job and studying kinesiology at Oxnard College while finding the time to practice, either early mornings or late evenings.

“It’s finding that last hour to put in my miles; for me it’s always been that way,” said Marquez.

Marquez began her training three years ago and began competitively fighting only last year. She says that most of her opponents are larger than she is, but it doesn’t faze her.

“I have to rely more on striking and do effective striking,” said Marquez, adding that though she’s relatively new to the sport, she’s enjoying herself. “I honestly pictured myself doing this; and I set my mind to it, thinking, ‘I’m going to make it happen.’ Sometimes I get a little overexcited, but at the end of the day, I like it.”

Marquez is slated to compete again at the West Coast U.S. Muay Thai Open in Phoenix, Arizona, taking place April 26-29, 2018, and will compete for a kickboxing title in Riverside in February.

For more information, visit www.muaythaiventura.com.