‘I want to inspire every girl’: One Championship’s Rika Ishige on turning heads as Jomary Torres showdown looms
The 28-year-old atomweight is looking to continue her unbeaten run in Macau on Saturday
Rising mixed martial arts star Rika Ishige wants you to look at her, first, and then to listen to her message.
“I want to inspire women,” she says. “I want young girls in Asia to stop dreaming of being models for Victoria Secrets or whoever and to realise how important training is for you.
“If you train your body hard, like with mixed martial arts, you’ll look good but especially your mind will be strong too.”
The 28-year-old is well aware that her appearance can be deceiving, as can the name she fights under in the atomweight division of the One Championship.
At the press conference before the Thai-Japanese “Tinydoll’s” bout against Jomary Torres of the Philippines on Saturday night at the Cotai Arena, she appeared on stage in a stunning cheongsam-boa combination looking for all the world like she’d just stepped out of the pages of an Eileen Chang novel, set sometime back in the 1940s.
Ishige turned heads, and she later said that’s been exactly the plan ever since she turned to MMA.
“I know that I can use the attention on me to do good things outside the cage,” she said. “Watch me train, watch me fight and then know that you can do it, too.”
Ishige is the first female Thai fighter to step out for a major mixed martial arts organisation and has won her first two fights as she starts to establish credentials built on a background of aikido and taekwondo, and inspired by a father heavily into judo. She freely admits her game is a work in progress but her impact has been immediate.
“After my first fight I got a lot of fan boys but after my second many women, girls reached out to me,” she said. “I want to inspire every girl because many want to try MMA but might be a bit scared. I want to show them they can do it.”
Ishige’s bout as part of the One: Kings and Conquerors card will be her third this year, and she has recently been training with the organisation’s flyweight world champion Kairat Akhmetov (23-0) at the Tiger Muay Thai club in Phuket, as the Kazak star prepares to put his title on the line against the man he took it from, Brazilian Adriano Moraes (15-2) on Saturday.
“He’s a beast,” said Ishige. “He’s been helping me work on my take downs, and just get stronger and stronger.”
Boyfriend and fellow MMA fighter Shannon “On Shin” Wiratchai (7-1) has also been helping out with sessions as Ishige develops the skills necessary to be a threat in an atomweight division One is developing but is dominated by the presence of world champion Angela Lee – who’s 8-0 so far and looks every inch as Unstoppable as her fight moniker suggests.
“I have been full-time training for just a year but feel I have come very far,” said Ishige. “I know that if I keep fighting, if I keep winning, more people will know who I am and more people will listen to my message.”