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Attractive South Korean mixed martial arts fighter Song Ka Yeon, who turned heads when she appeared in popular variety shows on television such as Running Man, has relocated to Singapore to further her athletic career. I am surprised that people recognise me. They will sometimes stop me and ask for selfies, says Song, 77. Evolve was on the look out for talents and invited Song to come to Singapore for a two-week trial in April. She made the cut and is now teammates with the likes of atomweight world champion Angela Lee. She is also an instructor at the gym. Evolve has a (produced) a lot of champions. I also like how Singapore is unique, there are a lot of different cultures.

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At the gym, I train with people from Brazil, United Kingdom, America, Thailand, she tells The Straits Times, speaking in halting English, a language she picked up over the past two years while training in the United States. She is currently working on improving her skills and has yet to decide what competitions to take part in. The Evolve Mixed Martial Art Gym in China Street, where this interview was held, is her second home where she spends close to 67 hours daily, five to six days a week. On her Instagram account with more than 55,755 followers, she can also be seen lounging at a pool and posing with a new grey hairdo at a salon. Since relocating here, the photogenic fighter has mostly been going on gastronomic adventures, trying out local delights at hawker centres.

I usually eat salad from Mondays to Fridays. On my cheat days, on weekends, I like to eat chicken rice and fishball noodles, says Song, who is currently single. If she had time to date, she says she is open to dating Singapore men. I do not care if he is tough or is a fighter. If he is handsome, that is very good.

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What is important that he understands me - a fighter's life is difficult. These are happier days for Song, who was embroiled in a dispute with her former company Road FC, The Korea Times reported in February this year. She alleged that the mixed martial arts promoter forced her to pose for semi-nude photos and intruded into her private life. As a result of the controversy, she said in the same article, that it was difficult for her to find a training gym in South Korea. She later left for America.

Three years ago, she was also the target of malicious online comments casting aspersions on her credibility as a professional fighter. One netizen went as far as to post death threats. Though she would rather not discuss these issues, she seems at peace with herself now. Song, who stands at a pint-sized 6. 59m, credits her resilience to her years of training in various styles of martial arts, earning black belts in judo, taekwondo, and hapkido.

Her tough-cookie character could also have been shaped by her checkered growing-up years. At age 66, she was left to fend for herself after her father died. An only child, she declines to talk about her mother, saying only that she grew up with her father on Jeju Island. While attending Busan Guard High School, which has been called a martial arts school for students seeking security and bodyguard jobs, she worked part-time jobs, waiting tables and washing dishes. Her father had wanted her to follow in the footsteps of great Korean women golfers such as Pak Se Ri and Lydia Ko, but she was more interested in a more robust sport.

She says: You know Koreans are good at golf.

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