Adjusting adeptly to the Professional Fighters League’s style within a year, Dakota Ditcheva is ready to take over. The Brit competes in the championship finals of the PFL Europe tournament at the 3Arena in Dublin on December 8. The event will air on DAZN in the U.K.
Ditcheva, 25, is a multi-time Muaythai Amateur World Champion from the Greater Manchester area who signed with the U.S.-based promotion in 2022. As a natural 125-pound fighter in a company without a division for her, it was initially a tough fit. Moving to the PFL’s Europe division, she has flourished under its tournament format. She beat Malin Hermansson and Cornelia Holm to advance to the finals, where she will face Valentina Scatizzi.
A tournament format closer to home? It was something she couldn’t say no to.
“I heard about them (the PFL) through Brendan Loughnane… It was really new to me, the tournament format. I hadn’t seen that before… When they talked about launching PFL Europe, it was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of,” Ditcheva told The Sporting News. “I like to fight quite regularly anyway. I don’t have big gaps between my fights. The year prior, I had four fights in the year. I was quite active. It’s how I like it. Other people like to have a lot of time off if they get injuries, but I’ve never really been that type of fighter or person. When they talked about having regular fights in the season, I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll do it.’
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been very different… there’s been a lot of new emotions this time. I feel like I haven’t switched off all year, it’s quite tiring. After one fight, you feel like you can relax, but in this tournament, you definitely can’t… the emotions are constantly going and going and going. The way PFL Europe has grown in just a short space of time has been absolutely ridiculous. It’s been really nice to be a part of something quite new to people.”
Ditcheva made waves in her last fight by knocking Holm out. Following a brutal shot to the body that dropped her opponent, Ditcheva sat silently on the floor in a criss-cross position. A Manchester City fan, she credited Erling Haaland for the idea. Normally not a fan of trash-talking, Ditcheva lets her fighting do the talking.
— PFL (@PFLMMA) September 30, 2023
While she has competed professionally since 2021, fighting has always been in Ditcheva’s blood. Her mom, Lisa Howarth, is a multiple-time world kickboxing champion. Lisa competed from 1986 to 2001, winning the WKA super bantamweight Muay Thai, WKA super flyweight, Full Contact Karate, and the IFCF bantamweight titles. She was trained by coach Thohsaphol Sitiwatjana, a.k.a. Master Toddy, who worked with fighters like Randy Couture, Bob Sapp, and Gina Carano.
Ditcheva credits her mom for giving her a competitive fighting style.
“Everything you see in that cage, striking-wise, it’s from my mom,” Ditcheva said. “Literally everything. She’s taught me from the ground up. All my fundamentals are from her. Everything you see is like a clone of her. I think the one thing that a lot of coaches say to me when they train with me is how powerful I am for a 125 [pounder]. For my build, I’m quite slim. They say how strong I am, and I think that’s just because of my mom’s fundamentals that she’s taught me, especially in boxing and stuff. The techniques, the way she teaches, it builds and generates a lot of power through the way I strike.”
Scatizzi has had a very different path to the finals than her opponent. She beat Lizzy Gevers and received a bye after Manuela Marconetto missed weight for their fight. Very active leading into this match, Scatizzi has called out Ditcheva at every turn.
However, Ditcheva is not worried about mind games and will do her talking in the SmartCage.
“[Scatizzi] had a lot to say, considering she got the bye. She’s got to build it up her way. She’s got to do what she wants to do,” Ditcheva said. “If she wants to trash talk, that’s what she’s got to do… She’s still got to get into the cage at the end of the day and fight. She can say all she wants to say, but we’re still going to be facing each other once that door locks. As long as she brings a good fight with her, that’s all I’m bothered about.”