Why Kseniya Lachkova Was Destined Be An Elite Martial Artist
Before the World Championship and World Grand Prix bouts at ONE: A NEW ERA, martial arts fans may see the emergence of the next women’s atomweight superstar.
Russia’s Kseniya “The Tigress” Lachkova will make her debut on the global stage for martial arts on March 31 in Tokyo, Japan against the hometown hero Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi.
It is a tough first assignment for the 23-year-old, but she has the pedigree and the skill to silence the Japanese fans inside the Ryogoku Kokugikan and establish herself as a top contender.
“I am thrilled to be on this card,” she says. “I’ve never fought at a big show like this – it’ll be a very special experience for me.”
Ahead of her debut, “The Tigress” reveals how she earned her chance to shine on the biggest event in martial arts history.
Raised To Compete
Lachkova grew up in Sharanga – a small village with a population of fewer than 300 people.
“It was a simple childhood. [It was] school, training, and looking after my father’s dogs – they were hunting dogs, and I had to take them running every day,” she remembers.
However, though she was away from the variety of facilities available in big cities, she was not short on activities to keep her occupied.
Her family encouraged her participation in sports, and as a child, she was inspired by her first role model – her dad.
“My late father used to practice hand-to-hand combat during his army days, and he remained very sporty through his life, encouraging both of his kids – myself and my elder brother – to do sports,” she explains.
“He was a hunter and a forest ranger. We used to go hunting together. My father was very sporty, and taught my brother and me a lot about a healthy lifestyle.”
Lachkova’s first striking lessons took place at home. She practiced both on her father’s punching bag and with her elder brother, Leonid.
“He was older and bigger than me, but we used to fight a lot,” she says.
“I am not talking about pushing each other around – it was so serious. We had to hide our fights from parents. We would have gotten into serious trouble otherwise, [but] our fighting was just kids’ stuff.
“I am very calm these days, but at the same time, I have a very stubborn streak in me. If I want something, I’ll do everything to get it.
“This quality helps in sports, but it didn’t help me have a peaceful relationship with my brother many years ago.”
Lachkova has always been an overachiever, as she showed both academic and athletic talent throughout her school and university years.
She successfully competed at track and field, volleyball, and judo, before she discovered the wrestling-boxing hybrid martial art of pankration.
“I moved to Cheboksary, and a friend invited me to her pankration school,” she says. “Both training and sparring were very hard, but I was up for the challenge.”
As she had done in almost every other sport, Lachkova excelled, and in 2013 she became a Pankration World Champion. That laid the foundations for the start of her mixed martial arts career in 2014.
However, while she was dedicated to her training, she never lost sight of her academic goals. She worked tirelessly to succeed with her studies, all while continuing her competitive pursuits.
“First, I finished high school with a silver medal, which is one of the highest forms of distinction in Russia,” Lachkova recalls.
“Then I got two degrees, both with honors. My parents have always supported my passion for martial arts, but there was a deal – I had to have good grades at school, too.”
Academic achievements would give “The Tigress” something to fall back on, but she was destined for a life as an athletic competitor.
Cool, Calm, And Collected
Modest rural life has made Lachkova very grounded. To this day, her lifestyle has not changed much.
“I grew up being close to my family, and I stayed out of trouble naturally – there was no time for that,” she adds.
“My day was split between training, studying, and helping around the house.”
That attitude towards life has served her well in her mixed martial arts career, which has taken her away from her home in her pursuit of greatness.
Her father died four years ago, and despite the void left by her martial arts inspiration, she found the strength to travel in search of a high standard of coaches and training partners.
“I’ve recently moved to the Kabardino-Balkaria region in the Caucasus to train in an Olympic reserve school,” she explains.
“I don’t go out at night, and I have a handful of close friends. But it suits me because training is my life.”
Despite its advantages, Lachkova admits that moving to the Caucasus was a difficult decision.
As a female martial artist, she faced some prejudice from some conservative members of the community who frowned upon women’s participation.
“I am not complaining about it. Things are better now and most guys have accepted me, but at first, I saw it was hard for them to adjust,” says the 23-year-old.
“They didn’t know how to do drills or to spar with me. You rarely see women fighting here – their place is traditionally at home.”
The region is famous for great wrestling schools, so she was determined to establish herself on a team that is mostly made up of men.
Thanks to the support of her trainers and teammates, she is there to stay.
“My coach is great, training is tough, and as long as I keep growing, the right people will always be by my side,” says the Fight Spirit representative.
“I can call on four or five friends now, but their support is gold.”
The Opportunity Of A Lifetime
In little more than four years, Lachkova has established herself as one of the most exciting women’s mixed martial artists in the world with 10 wins, including eight via stoppage.
Her success in organizations across her homeland and China attracted the attention of ONE, and she was added to its women’s atomweight division.
At ONE: A NEW ERA, she will share the spotlight with a man who she looks up to thanks to their shared background.
FILA Pankration Champion Timofey Nastyukhin will feature on the main card in a ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarter-final bout with his opponent, Eddie Alvarez.
“The Tigress” is excited and motivated to be part of the same historic event as her compatriot.
“I remember him from participating in the same pankration competitions,” she says.
“He won gold when I was starting my career, and it’s an honor to fight on the same card with him now – it shows I’ve made good progress.”
Riding the wave from five consecutive wins, she will enter The Home Of Martial Arts in a match that gives her the chance to make a powerful first impression against Yamaguchi.
“Being signed to ONE is a big deal for me,” she says. “Of course, I want to show my best on the day. I want the audience to remember me.”