Thai hero Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige emerged from 2018 with some momentum behind her in ONE Championship.
After a difficult start, the 29-year-old atomweight worked diligently at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket to return to action as a much-improved martial artist.
Ishige showed how much she had developed in October as she returned to form with a win over Myanmar’s Bozhena Antoniyar via first-round TKO at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, November 25, 2018
The victory in Bangkok was even more impressive considering the adversity Ishige had to overcome in the lead-up to the contest.
“My recent fight was the highlight of the year, but it is not because I won,” she explains.
“In my training camp, I seriously injured my legs three weeks before the event. It was so bad I almost had to give up and cancel the fight, but I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to see what happens if I don’t give up.
“I know now that I would not have regretted losing the fight, but that I would have definitely regretted canceling it.”
Her victory saw the outgoing Ishige end the year on a high, and she admits she has already thrown herself into training in preparation for the moment she receives the call for her next bout.
“I’m still training twice a day, six days a week even though I don’t have a fight coming up,” she says.
“I’m focusing on my weaknesses and what I have to improve on. I’m also learning some new things before my next fight, too.”
Ishige is working hard on the mats at Tiger Muay Thai, where head mixed martial arts coach George Hickman is keeping a close eye on “Tiny Doll’s” development.
The veteran trainer says he is suitably impressed with her progression over the last 12 months.
“Rika has been working incredibly hard and has made some incredible improvements as a martial artist,” he says.
“She’s just getting started. I think 2019 will be the biggest year of her career.”
That sentiment is echoed by Ishige, as the Thai fan favorite reveals her aspirations to become a top contender in 2019.
“In 2019 my division might be open for a new champion if Angela [Lee] moves to a higher division,” she says.
“I hope I could be one of the contenders, or if ONE adds a lighter division, it would be great because compared with other girls in this division, especially the top contenders, I’m quite small.
“I started mixed martial arts quite late, but I will do my best next year to make it the best year of my career.”