Jessa Khan was born in Texas but she has roots in Cambodia. The BJJ black belt has represented the South East Asian nation at numerous competitions and is hoping to compete there on a ONE Championship card one day,

“If ONE could go to Cambodia and host an event, yeah, I would love that. A lot of people in Cambodia, they’re very supportive of my jiu-jitsu, my journey. Whenever they heard that I was representing ONE Championship, they got super excited,” she said.

The lure of Cambodia for ONE Championship would clearly increase if the promotion had a champion representing the country. Khan has the opportunity to become the first when she challenges for the atomweight submission grappling belt next month.


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Tough times

At ONE Fight Night 14 she faces Danielle Kelly in a bout that will have the inaugural title on the line. In 2021 she defeated the same opponent in points but Khan says it has not been plain sailing since she started competing as a black belt,

“Once I got to black belt there were already people had been there for years, black belt world champions. So now when I fight in black belt, every fight, those are really tough compared to how it was when I was in the coloured belts.”

Having dominated during her journey through the BJJ ranks Khan says this came as something of a shock,

“I felt like for me, it was a big change from being blue, purple, and brown belt, being in the coloured belts. For me, while I was at those belt colours. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but my level was way higher than my opponents.”


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Work ethic 

Khan’s work ethic was just as strong but results weren’t going her way,

“I train very hard and it was really tough for me to take those losses because I just felt like I was constantly losing every single tournament.”

This was clearly a difficult period for the 21 year old,

“I had never experienced that before because normally I would be the one on top of the podium. So I feel like mentally, that kind of messed me up.”


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Time off

Khan decided to take some time off towards the end of 2021. She sat down with her trainers and discussed the difficulties she has faced during the year and the adjustments which needed making,

“I talked to my professors and my family, just kind of thinking about everything that we could do to improve, to make the next year a little bit better.”

The results were immediate. In May she won a gold medal at the Asian Games in Phnom Penh and a couple of months later came the crowning achievement of Khan’s career as she claimed a gold medal at the IBJJF World Championships.

For Khan the trials and tribulations of the previous year must have suddenly seemed a long way away,

“I felt like I definitely improved immensely. I was actually able to win the major tournament titles. So right there, that just showed me that I’ve definitely improved.”

It might have taken her a while to get used to life as a black belt. But Khan is thriving and will be looking to become the first woman to ever win the ONE Championship submission grappling title.