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Smilla Sundell: ONE Championship's history-making teenager plots world domination after staggering rise

Smilla Sundell is the youngest world champion in ONE Championship history; she will defend her women's Strawweight Muay Thai title against Natalya Dyachkova on May 4 in Thailand, live on Sky Sports.

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Meet Smilla Sundell , the youngest world champion in ONE Championship history. The Swede will defend her women's Strawweight Muay Thai title against Natalya Dyachkova on May 4, live on Sky Sports.

Smilla Sundell didn't want to fight. Now she is a world champion. 

The 19-year-old currently reigns as ONE Women's Strawweight Muay Thai world champion and is set to defend her title against Natalya Dyachkova at ONE Fight Night 22 in Bangkok, Thailand in the early hours of Saturday May 4, live on Sky Sports.

Sundell's emphatic rise has seen her become the WBC's top-ranked women's Muay Thai competitor at the age of 16, before becoming ONE's youngest Muay Thai world champion aged 17.

Baddest teenager on the planet? Quite possibly.

"I think it's fun to hear that," laughed Sundell, speaking to Sky Sports. "I heard different kinds like that. I think I still have a lot to grow on."

Smilla Sundell in action against Allycia Hellen Rodrigues at ONE Fight Night 14
Image: Smilla Sundell in action against Allycia Hellen Rodrigues at ONE Fight Night 14

Sundell grew up in Sweden and began learning karate at the age of five before being introduced to Muay Thai while on holiday in Thailand, where she would eventually move as a result of her parents' jobs. The rest was gold standard history, with the best no doubt still to come.

"I moved to Thailand when I was 11-12 years old, and I've always been into sports and stuff and when we moved to the small island in Thailand there was not many sports to do and only Muay Thai," she explained. "So I started off training for fun with my family and later on the trainers and my parents thought that I was good enough to fight.

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"But I didn't really want to do it so. One day they told me like the evening before that I had a fight the next day, and that's how it started. I didn't want to do it. I was very angry and p***** off at everyone because I didn't want to get hurt.

"It was not for me. It took me three fights to really get into it. It was same for the first three fights. They told me like one day before. But I like winning and I won my first three fights, I like the winning feeling, so I kept going and now I'm a world champion."

Natalia Diachkova., ONE Championship
Image: Natalia Diachkova., ONE Championship

Sundell jokes that she has become somewhat accustomed to the regular dose of pain. Winning in commanding fashion, as she so often has, helps limit as much.

She made her Muay Thai debut back in 2018, prevailing with a first-round stoppage in a contest that may have never taken place.

"I was actually planning on cancelling my first fight, because I really didn't want to get hurt," she continued. "But then I got to the next day, I was like 'she's a small girl too' and if the trainers tells me I'm good I have to trust them.

"I see the girl at the stadium. 'I'm like, ah, she's small too', and we agreed to not do elbows, so that was nice. But I was like 'oh she looks nervous, too, let's just get it done and then not have to do it again'."

Sundell was left with a decision to make at the age of 15 when her family decided to move back home to Sweden. She had found Muay Thai, and didn't want to let it go.

"I don't think I would have been doing Muay Thai in Sweden and and also I would keep on studying and be like anyone else," she said. "Maybe work in a clothing shop or a restaurant, so I'm very happy I found Muay Thai.

"I just had started a Fairtex Gym and I know they have big opportunities here so I could choose to live my dream or go back to Sweden and just start like anyone else, and my family was very supportive of my choice and.

"We thought they would come back even sooner to visit me but their flights were cancelled all the time so I didn't see my mum for a year-and-a-half. They come to every fight now."

Teenager sensation Smilla Sundell will defend her world title on Sky Sports on May 3
Image: Teenager sensation Smilla Sundell will defend her world title on Sky Sports on May 3

Sundell's father, in particular, is as close as anybody to The Hurricane's blossoming career, serving as one of his daughter's cornermen.

"He's very supportive and keeps pushing me, he knows that I can do it," she says. "He just tells me to calm down, usually because I get too aggressive, I don't focus in the first round, I get too many hits and he says 'ok, calm down now'."

Sundell made her ONE Championship debut in February 2022 as she beat Australia's Diandra Martin via third-round TKO, before clinching the Women's Strawweight Muay Thai World Championship two months later with a unanimous decision victory over Jackie Buntan.

In doing so she became the youngest fighter to win a world title, which she successfully defended last September with a third-round stoppage win over Allycia Rodrigues having also made her kickboxing debut in May 2023.

"I was surprised a bit that it happened so quickly, but I also kind of knew that I could do it. It was my biggest dream coming true," she said.

With her emergence has come the opportunity to cross paths with other greats of combat sport, including WBC heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, with whom Sundell recently grabbed a picture while the Gypsy King was training in her gym.

"I took a photo with him before training, but I didn't like that photo enough. I was like 'no, I don't look good on that one, so I let him train," she laughed. "I did my own training, then I did some weights waiting for him to finish and then I got to take another picture with him."

Smilla Sundell takes aim at Allycia Hellen Rodrigues
Image: Smilla Sundell takes aim at Allycia Hellen Rodrigues

While she is relishing the chance to interact with other sporting stars, she admits she is yet to feel like one herself.

"Nah, I don't feel like a superstar," she said. "But then people come up to me and want a picture, so that's kind of like a superstar, but in my eyes I'm just like a normal person."

Despite being so early on in her own career, Sundell hopes to inspire other young female fighters to follow in her footsteps by pursuing success in combat sport.

"I think it's very nice that people look up to me," she said. "Like people come to me training and they're like, 'Oh my god' and they are star struck, and I can't really believe it.

"That just make me so happy. And I just want to keep on pushing more and become even better."

Having already taken a seat at the world champion table, Sundell isn't ready to stop there.

Dyachkova awaits as the next stride towards dominance.

"I want to be a world champion in all three categories, so kickboxing and MMA and Muay Thai, I want to have all the belts at the same time," she explained.

"But my first step will be to defend my belt now and then get the kickboxing belt, and then MMA will come in the future."

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