Training with Paige Van Zant and continuing her mother’s legacy: Dakota Ditcheva reveals all ahead of PFL Paris

With the potential to go all the way to the top and the pressure of fighting for her family resting on her shoulders, Dakota Ditcheva has it all to prove when she makes her walk to the cage at PFL Paris on Saturday evening.

Born in Sale to kickboxing world champion Lisa Howarth, the natural-born athlete was always destined for big things, exploding onto the Muay Thai scene at an early age.

Gifted with sublime talent, Ditcheva quickly caught the attention of the purists, who realised she was just as talented as her legendary mother.

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For most athletes, this level of expectation could’ve overwhelmed them, rendering it impossible for them to reach their optimum ability, but for Ditcheva, it was simply fuel to her fire.

Speaking exclusively to Sporf, she said: “I’ve grown up around such a great role model, who made me the strong woman I am today. It’s nice to see how much my mum did for the sport, and now I’m carrying it on. Hopefully, my kids will do the same one day. 

“It’s a lot of pressure. Eyes are on you all the time when you’re doing well, but also when you’re doing badly. You don’t want to let your family name down by giving up or not being the best. My mum was at the top level, so I want to ensure I live up to that.”

Dakota Ditcheva talks training with Paige Van Zant at American Top Team

After featuring in the British team, which won the International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur World Championships in Jönköping, Sweden and becoming a three-time world champion, Ditcheva switched to the world of MMA and rapidly transferred her skills over to her new discipline.

Having amassed an 8-0 record, the 25-year-old has proven herself as one of the most exciting female fighters on the planet. And she’s honing her skills at American Top Team in Florida, where she’s working alongside greats of the sport like Paige Van Zant and Kayla Harrison.

Ditcheva beamed: “It’s amazing. Kayla has been in the PFL for a few years now. She’s obviously had great success. So it’s nice to have her guidance and experience around me.

“Paige has done amazing things as well. There are so many other girls I could mention. But those two girls are lovely.

“I love it over there. It’s my fourth time now. I love being in the sun. In the UK, I don’t have any girls to train with, so it’s nice to be around people who are on the same journey as me. I have a home here. In the UK, I’m on my own a lot, so it’s nice to be around people who are on the same path as me and want the same thing.”

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From going on boat trips to watching the fights at the local bars, Ditcheva has dived into the culture. However, she’s yet to see an alligator, but the same can’t be said for her mother.

The PFL star laughed: “My mum came over to see me for two weeks and went on the jet skis with my little brother. She saw dolphins, which is crazy. She also went on an alligator trip and saw them in their habitat.”

Dakota Ditcheva aims to make a statement at PFL Paris

On September 30, Ditcheva will walk out to a packed house at the Zenith Arena in Paris, hoping to give the French crowd a night they’ll remember forever.

Having produced a scintillating victory over Malin Hermansson in Newcastle, she’s ready to put Cornelia Holm through her paces in the next round of the playoffs.

She asserted: “I’m going to win the whole thing for sure. I don’t think she’s someone that I’m gonna be able to get out very easily. She’s a tough girl. She’s been around a while. So, she’s got the experience, and I know I’m in for a tough fight here. But I don’t see her being able to beat me.”

Fans can watch Ditcheva’s eagerly-anticipated contest live on DAZN on Saturday evening.

Featured Image Credit: PFL