THAI-JAPANESE mixed martial arts fighter Rika Ishige refuses to be downcast after suffering her first defeat and is hoping to be an inspiration to Thai girls to be physically and mentally strong.
The 28-year-old tasted defeat for the first time in her third fight, to Filipina fighter Jomarry Torres, in Macau last Saturday.
Ishige, who is of Thai and Japanese heritage, comes from a family of martial artists and began training at the age of nine.
Fascinated by the showmanship and the sport's competitive nature, later she found the time to resume her martial arts training after quitting her jobs.
"It is my honour to be a part of one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world like ONE Championship. Not everybody gets this chance. I will do my best for my family and also for my countrymen," said Ishige.
"At first, I didn't feel any pressure of being the first female Thai fighter to step into an MMA cage because I believe in myself and in my ability. In my mind, I thought I could handle it. But I can't pretend that everything is easy anymore," she shared in jest.
"Martial arts is not only for men. In Thailand, many Thai women have competed in different martial arts like Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and others. If you look at me, I am proof that women can do it," she said.
Her slender figure has Rika dubbed as “Tiny Doll” in One Championship. And she is already established as a fan favourite.
"After my first fight I got a lot of boy fans but after my second many women and girls reached out to me," she said. She says she didn't mind that as long as she could be the magnet that drew fans to watch martial arts and inspired her fans, especially women, to practise the sport.
"I know that I can use the attention on me to do good things outside the cage. I want to show every girl who might be a bit scared. Watch me train, watch me fight and then you'll know that you can do it too
"I want young girls to stop dreaming of being models and to realise how important training is for you.
If you train your body hard, like with mixed martial arts, you'll look good but especially your mind will be strong too."
Ishige is also seeing the positive side of her first defeat in Macau. "If I hadn't lost this fight, I wouldn't have learned my weaknesses and mistakes.
“There's so much room for me to work on," she said.