Dakota Ditcheva - the teenage Muay Thai fighter from Sale

Dakota Ditcheva, Northern Spirit Muaythai

Dakota Ditcheva, Northern Spirit Muaythai - Credit: Archant

Sale teenager Dakota Ditcheva has such an impressive record in the ring, it’s a battle to find anyone willing to fight her. Words by Paul Mackenzie

Dakota (white shorts) on her way to another victory

Dakota (white shorts) on her way to another victory - Credit: Adam Crowther

Four-year-old girls are often keen to try different things, but while for most that means new friends and games, for Dakota Ditcheva it meant her first fight in the ring.

Dakota, who is now 17, won that first bout and she has won every fight she’s had since as well – in fact, her record is so good, it’s now hard to find any opponents willing to face her.

Those first fights took place at the gym in Sale run by her mum, Lisa Howarth, a former holder of world titles in Muay Thai fighting, kickboxing, karate and mixed martial arts.

Dakota Ditcheva training with mum, Lisa Ditcheva

Dakota Ditcheva training with mum, Lisa Ditcheva - Credit: Archant

‘I was always at the gym when I was young,’ Dakota said. ‘I was pushing my baby prams round and watching what was happening in the ring. I think it’s just in my blood.’

After her early successes though, Dakota decided she didn’t want to fight and moved instead into gymnastics, dance and other sports until she was drawn back to Muay Thai fighting as a 12-year-old. The sport combines clinches with the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins and Dakota added: ‘I like the challenge and the discipline that come with the sport and I love competing. I’m just an adrenalin junkie. I love that feeling before a fight – it’s impossible to explain but it gives me such a buzz.

‘When I came back to the gym I was put in quite high level fights because I was good for my age and I won all of them. I had about 20 fights as a junior and won them all and I’ve had six professional fights so far and won all of them as well.

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‘It’s getting hard to find people to fight – before the last fight I had, four women pulled out – so I’m ending up fighting women older and more experienced than me.

Dakota Ditcheva, Northern Spirit Muaythai

Dakota Ditcheva, Northern Spirit Muaythai - Credit: Archant

‘Being so much younger can be a disadvantage because my opponents are always much more mature than me but that’s just something I’m having to deal with and it’s probably helping me. I just have to get on with it and work hard and as I fight better people, I get better known and I’m working my way up the rankings.

‘It may be that I move into mixed martial arts [a hybrid fighting style with blends of other disciplines] but I would have to move to a different gym and try it and see if I like it and if I’m any good. For now though, I’m just trying to get to the top. There’s not many girls or women left for me to fight but there are a few out there I still have to beat. ’

Dakota is studying for a BTec in sport at Trafford College in Altrincham with a view to a career outside the ring as a personal trainer but she is very dedicated to her training.

‘I train six days a week,’ she said. ‘It’s not just in the ring, there’s running, strength and conditioning training – all sorts. And I have college work to do and I teach private lessons at the gym as well.

‘I have had a boyfriend and I found it distracted me. People thought I was doing well but I knew I was being distracted. I need to be so dedicated to the sport and there’s plenty of time for relationships in the future.

‘I could easily make more time for my friends but I think there will be plenty of time for that later. If I want to be the best, then I need to put the work in now. I don’t think I’m missing out.’