For Omaira Molina, karate isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life.
The Venezuelan karateka comes from a long line of martial artists including both her mother and father, as well as a paternal uncle on her father’s side.
She currently competes in the women’s bantamweight division of Karate Combat, the world’s first full-contact, professional karate league.
Molina, 30, learned how to fight growing up, practising karate in her family gym before transitioning into the sport professionally.
A multi-time national champion, the 30-year-old also competed at two Pan American Games during her career as an amateur, 2015 in Canada and 2019 in Peru respectively.
Molina won her first medal in Toronto six years ago, coming third in the women’s kumite +68 kg event. She then went on to win the silver medal in 2019.
Speaking exclusively to GIVEMESPORT, she said: “Everybody in my family is a karateka, so I had no choice, really [she laughs].
“My father is my coach, the same as my uncle, who is his brother.
“One day I hope I can bring the belt back to my country to show everyone what I’ve achieved.”
Family is important to Molina, who tragically lost her brother at the age of 22.
She revealed: “My brother is my motivation. He inspires me every day. I miss him so much.
“He died eight years ago which completely changed my attitude to life in general.
“Before he died, I was actually quite reserved, but now I just try to enjoy each moment as it comes.”
Hailing from the same country as UFC star and current bantamweight champion Julianna Pena, Molina currently trains at Strategic MMA Academy in New Jersey, which is just a short drive from where she lives in New York.
Molina added: “Amanda Nunes is a great champion, but I like Rose Namajunas.
“Rose is my favourite athlete right now. She surprised me because she is so strong but so feminine at the same time.
“I aspire to be like her, the way she carries herself in and out of the octagon. But they’re all badass in their own way. It makes me want to push myself to the best of my abilities.
The part-time model has also become a huge hit with fans on social media thanks to her incredible good looks and revealed she is trying her best to bring more eyeballs to the sport.
She reflected: “I feel so much pressure sometimes because a lot of children look up to me in my country.
“Social media can be a good thing but you can also get a fair bit of stick as an athlete so I try to control it.
“Sometimes people write something on there that I don’t like or I don’t agree with. But most of my fans are lovely and I really appreciate their support.”