The lightweight Wiratchai and atomweight Ishige rely solely on their own merits when they are inside the cage, but outside of it, they come as a duo.
With good looks, charismatic and entertaining personalities, as well as a penchant for martial arts success, they bring the full package to the table.
Their introduction to one another through martial arts is well-documented, but what are the day-to-day realities of spending both your home and work lives with the person you love? Can it ever be too much of a good thing?
“I always have her there to help me,” Wiratchai offers. “Sometimes we see mistakes and how we have to develop. I do not have to be by myself after training, trying to work something out on my own or on the bag. When I have Rika, she can be my training partner.”
Outside of the practical uses of always having a training partner on hand, one aspect of their relationship which gives them a unique bond is the ability to empathize, and be on the same wavelength when the draining effects of training camp start to take their toll.
While a significant other can usually imagine what the physically-demanding grind feels like and do their best to understand, only someone who has been through the same processes can truly know. In those situations, their decisions will usually be synchronized after the hard training sessions are over.
“If you do martial arts or any sport, and you have a girlfriend that does not understand, you can finish your training and be so sore and tired, and they might want you to go somewhere and hang out,” Wiratchai explains. “But when your girlfriend is working out too, they understand sometimes you do not want to do that. Maybe you just want to relax at home together or go to the cinema, so that is good.”
Ishige concurs, adding: “Actually, because we have the same lifestyle almost 100 percent of the time, we can do almost anything together and really like it!”
Sometimes, that is not always the case. At least, that is the way Wiratchai makes it sound.
“Sometimes, Rika is cheating on training, so afterwards she is like, ‘I am fine, let’s go somewhere’,” he jokes.
“No, come on,” Ishige protests, as they both descend into fits of laughter.
The daily grind of padwork, grappling, conditioning, and sparring can be monotonous, and for many elite athletes, it can be a selfish endeavor. It is not uncommon for them to hit a wall during camp when it all becomes too much.
Having someone around who feels the same and can help you raise a smile about it, even when you can barely raise your arm, is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, the fateful night comes to perform, and that is another amalgamation of emotions that comes to an intense crescendo.
The first time Wiratchai and Ishige competed together was at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM in their hometown of Bangkok back in March. “Tinydoll” made her professional ONE Championship debut against Audreylaura Boniface, while “OneShin” attempted to continue his streak of success against Richard Corminal.
“Ishige” was up first, and her debut TKO victory was the biggest mental boost possible for her boyfriend, who went into his bout feeling invincible because of it. He knew the preparation they had shared had paid off, and now his turn was just a formality.
“Before she won her match, I was quite nervous,” he begins. “But when she won, all those feelings were gone. I just knew I was going to win. I knew I was not going to lose that bout, because I was so relaxed.” The Thai lightweight would knock out Corminal in the first round.
However, that fairy-tale beginning to their shared careers has come to an end. In the months to come, both would split wins and defeats competing on the same night.
In Macao at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS, Ishige fell to Jomary Torres, while Wiratchai knocked out Rajinder Singh Meena. While Ishige would bounce back with a submission of Rome Trinidad back in Bangkok at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD, Wiratchai’s 6-bout win streak was snapped by Rasul Yakhyaev via unanimous decision.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from watching Thai martial arts’ power couple this past year, it’s that they both possess true warrior spirit. Ishige’s loss spurred her to evolve even further as an athlete, and Wiratchai will be sure to follow.