Amber “AK 47” Kitchen will showcase the elite martial arts pedigree that runs through her veins when she makes her ONE Championship debut on Friday, 6 September.
The 20-year-old Touchgloves Gym representative will step onto the global stage for the first time at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where she will face Slovakia’s Viktoria Lipianska in a strawweight Muay Thai battle.
Kitchen has already traveled the globe in search of the best opposition, but now she has arrived in The Home Of Martial Arts, she can truly find her place among the very best in the world.
Before she gets the chance to show the world what she can do in the ring, the burgeoning English striker reveals why she was destined to be an elite athlete.
Born Into Muay Thai
Kitchen was born and raised in the small coastal town of Penzance in Cornwall, England with her parents and twin sister, Allaya.
Her mother, Julie Kitchen, is a 14-time World Champion in Muay Thai and one of the UK’s most decorated combat sports athletes of all time. Her father, Nathan, was his wife’s trainer, and owner of the Touchgloves Gym.
It was inevitable that “AK 47’s” life would be intertwined with martial arts, but she did not grasp the magnitude of her mum’s success until later in life.
“We didn’t really think much of [my mum’s career] when we were younger – it was just normal really. It’s not until I look back now that I can see how she really did give it her all, and see how good she was,” Kitchen explains.
“Me and my sister used to stay at my nan’s a lot when mum and dad went abroad, and I just remember getting excited to get a phone call to see whether she’d won or not. Other than that, I was quite young, so I didn’t really pay attention.”
The twins first started to practice martial arts when they were 3, but they were not forced to. Both girls were allowed to try to find their own sporting passion, but studying was Amber’s first priority.
“I tried other sports in school – it’s mainly surfing down here. I tried that and didn’t really like it, and I tried a few other things too, but just always reverted back to Thai boxing,” she offers.
“I was really, really quiet in secondary school. I only had a really small group of friends, but I worked hard and I got good grades.
“I just focused on my homework all the time, and I didn’t do Thai boxing as much because I was so focused on my GCSEs [secondary school exams].”
Despite her other pursuits, Muay Thai was a big part of Kitchen’s life throughout her formative years.
She entered her first interclub contests almost as soon as she began training as a small child, and had her first competitive bout aged 9. She was a junior British, European and World Champion at the junior level, but despite that success, admits that she was not completely dedicated to the sport.
“Me and my sister fought all around the UK at lots of competitions, and we fought for England in Turkey and things like that. I was undefeated as a junior,” says Kitchen.
“We grew up in the gym and carried on training, but I kept dipping in and out of it during primary and secondary school.”
It wasn’t until she made a trip to Thailand at 16 with another purpose in mind that she really fell in love with “the art of eight limbs” and found the desire to focus on her career in the ring.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a tattoo artist. I did art and design at college, and I went to Thailand because I wanted to learn bamboo tattooing,” the 20-year-old adds.
“When I got there, I just started training and thought, ‘You know what, this would probably suit me more.’”
A Wake-Up Call
Her success at the junior level and the famous Kitchen name meant there were high expectations as “AK 47” took the step up to the senior ranks, but her career was almost over before it had a chance to get going.
In the UK, juniors compete without headshots, and a combination of new rules and a lack of focus in training hit the rising star like a ton of bricks.
“When I stepped up from junior to adult, I really struggled. I lost my first three fights and got stopped. That had a big impact, and I didn’t know if I wanted to carry on doing Thai boxing at all,” she admits.
“The last time I lost, my dad said to me, ‘You’re getting to the gym tomorrow morning and training properly, or you can quit. I’m not seeing you get hurt again.’”
This was a crossroads moment in Kitchen’s life. Her sister had already decided to pursue other things, but she did not want to give up on Muay Thai without proving that she had what it takes to succeed.
“It really got me down, and I suffered badly with anxiety – I had three failures where I felt like I had given up before I even went in there,” she offers.
“I just wanted to prove myself. I just needed to win one fight, and I thought I’d be happy. I wanted to feel like I had accomplished something rather than wasted my time.
“Something just switched. I realized I’d been kidding myself about my training and not being serious, so I stepped up my training and kept going, and I have won every fight since.”
The Next Level
Since that wake-up call, Kitchen has been on a tear. She has challenged herself to face the stiffest competition, won a WBC English Muay Thai Title, and traveled overseas in search of tougher bouts.
“I took these matches against girls with 30 or 40 fights, and away from home as the underdog,” says the Cornish athlete.
“I went to America and had a title fight against one of the best up-and-coming girls there. In the back of my mind, I was thinking it was farfetched for me to win, but I went out and I won.
“This was when I really believed in myself and I thought I could actually do it if I knuckle down and train as hard as I can.”
Kitchen’s current streak and impressive pedigree earned her a spot in the world’s largest martial arts organization, where she wants to make an impact and create a legacy of her own.
“Signing for ONE is like a dream for anyone who fights because it’s the biggest platform you can get on,” she states.
“I can’t imagine anything better really. This is a huge step up, so I’ve got so much determination to perform well against the best in the world, and the main goal is that ONE World Title.”
Ho Chi Minh City | 6 September | 7PM | ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneimmortal19