Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige has faced challenges throughout her life, but she has always shown the heart to take them on.
Whether she is up against her opponents in the Circle – like Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata, who she will face at ONE: CENTURY PART I next Sunday, 13 October – or the bullies in her early life, the Thai athlete’s martial arts training has helped her prevail.
Inspired by her father, she went to her local gym as a teenager to learn self-defense skills that would give her the courage to stand up to high school seniors that had made her life a misery.
“I became stronger – not only physically, but mentally. I felt calmer and better at controlling my emotions,” she says.
Those early experiences in the gym also laid the foundation for her future career, but it was not until after she took a break from training to study that she started to train to compete.
Ishige practiced multiple disciplines, but it was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu above all – with its philosophy that prioritizes technique over strength – that helped give her the courage to compete
“Jiu-jitsu helped me a lot, both in my normal life and in matches. It is good for small people like me,” the Thai pioneer explains.
“[I am] free to be me and dare to do anything! It especially allows me to follow my passion.”
After a successful amateur run, “Tiny Doll” gained the confidence to make a professional debut that was unlike most others.
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Most mixed martial artists begin their careers in small organizations on their domestic circuit, but the Bangkok native was thrown straight into the deep end on the global stage for martial arts.
“Some people are afraid of change, but if you have courage, you will never fear anything, and good things will follow,” she says.
The spotlight was focused on her in her hometown at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM in the Impact Arena, but she showed no fear and rose to the occasion to defeat Audreylaura “Ice Comet” Boniface via first-round TKO.
“Courage comes with confidence, and confidence is what happens when you have put in the hard work,” she adds.
“I believe that the mind and body should be both healthy and sound. If you’re in good physical health, then your mental health will be good too.”
Though Ishige has become a veteran of the Circle through seven bouts, the pressure of the big occasion can still affect her.
However, she has another weapon in her arsenal that helps to draw more support from the crowd and boost her bravery – her iconic cosplay entrances.
“When I walk out, I like to dress up to entertain the fans, which also helps me to become less tense,” she explains.
“It helps me to become less pressured and nervous… so, I use this walkout thing to calm myself down.”
Ishige’s mindset also means she is never too downhearted about defeat, and she never has any issue with dusting herself off and preparing to face another one of The Home Of Martial Arts’ talented women’s atomweights
That is why she has no fear of testing herself in front of the world against Hirata at the biggest event in martial arts history – ONE: CENTURY.
“I never put pressure on myself. Instead, I just keep doing my best, and if something doesn’t go according to plan, I’ll just try again and again,” she says.
- Watch PART I in USA on 12 October at 8pm EST and PART II on 13 October at 4am EST
- Watch PART I in India on 13 October at 5:30am IST and PART II at 1:30pm IST
- Watch PART I in Indonesia on 13 October at 7am WIB and PART II at 3pm WIB
- Watch PART I in Singapore on 13 October at 8am SGT and PART II at 4pm SGT
- Watch PART I in the Philippines on 13 October at 8am PHT and PART II at 4pm PHT
- Watch PART I in Japan on 13 October at 9am JST and PART II at 5pm JST
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.