Dakota Ditcheva
Dakota Ditcheva (PFL MMA)

PFL Europe 2023 Finalist Dakota Ditcheva: ‘I’m Fighting for Her’

Dakota Ditcheva will be competing at PFL Europe 4: 2023 Championships on Friday, Dec. 8 for an impressive $100,000 prize. This match will be broadcast live from the 3Arena Dublin in Dublin, Ireland.

The English-Bulgarian striker started her career in kickboxing, picking up titles all around Europe, in ISKA, before transitioning to MMA. “Dangerous” Ditcheva began her combat sports journey when she was just a child under the training of her mother, and kickboxing world champion, Lisa Howarth.

Since switching to MMA, the 25-year-old athlete has put together a perfect professional record of 9-0, winning 80 percent of these matches by way of knockout. All of her bouts in the PFL were won by stoppage.


Ditcheva will be competing against Italy’s Valentina Scatizzi for the PFL women’s flyweight title on Dec. 8. Ahead of her matchup, she sat down with Tim Wheaton of Combat Press for an in-depth interview.

Interview with Dakota Ditcheva

Ditcheva’s Knockout Night in Paris

Just coming off the knockout win over Cornelia Holm, this was a viral moment. How did it feel getting the knockout in the last fight?

I was super happy to get it in the end. I always like to be in an exciting fight. So I feel like the first round was a little bit boring for me up against the cage. I should have moved a little bit more and got off there quicker.

But yeah, I found my feet a little bit in towards the later round. So I was happy that I pulled something out of the bag that was a little more exciting. And then I got to do my celebration as well, which was good.

It seemed like it was on every Instagram, and it’s going to be replayed so many times over. What is it like seeing in these highlight reels yourself knocking someone else out?

It’s good, because I’m female as well. And you don’t often see the girls getting stoppages and stuff. And I think that’s what people quite like about me is that I do end up getting a lot of stoppages.

And it is exciting to see the strikers at the moment are kind of what everyone’s watching for. So, yeah, I think the card, as well, before I’d come on it, was a little bit slow, and then it kind of livened up a little bit. So I was happy to kind of bring a bit of entertainment.

By the end, the atmosphere in there was insane because Cedric Doumbé was right after that. What was the atmosphere like in there? It must have been buck wild.

Wow. It was, honestly, I’ve never been at a show like that before. It was crazy. I think just, he’s a real entertainer, like his walkout and literally everything was just like – the crowd in Paris is crazy. Like, I can’t believe they’ve only just allowed this – the sport in France. The crowd is crazy. They love it.

PFL MMA in Dublin

Then you’re going to be fighting here in Dublin in just a few weeks, and this is the finals of the tournament. What are your thoughts going into this moment?

I’m nervous. I’m not going to lie. You know, I’m ready for it, but I’m definitely nervous. It’s been like a build-up of emotions throughout the whole year. Normally, like, you have a fight, and then it’s over. And, then, you build up for the next one.

I feel like it’s just constant from March when I first thought it’s just been like dragging and dragging and dragging – and just building and building and building – and then we’re finally here now. So, I’m looking forward to my Christmas dinner, and that’s going to push me to get that win and get back home.

You’re you’re at a 90-percent or 80-percent knockout-win rate. Is there any pressure to get a knockout?

There’s no pressure. As long as I get the win, I get the win, but I do want to stay exciting. I want to entertain people and be able to show off my striking.

It’s a life-changing amount of money for anyone. What’s the plan with the money?

I feel like my brothers have spent it before I have. It’s right before Christmas, so I’m definitely going to get rinsed by them. The Christmas presents are going to be a bit wild this year, but I don’t know. I want to get into property. That’s kind of been a dream for me and my brother to go into property together, so maybe invest. The start of that is kind of in the plans, but yeah, I mean, I would like my own place myself, but I’m kind of living out of a suitcase between the UK, Bulgaria and Florida. So, I don’t quite know where I want to settle yet. So, if I can get on the property ladder with my brother, I’ll be happy.

You are fighting a Valentina Scatizzi. Any thoughts on her?

I’ve not seen too much of her, to be honest. I’m not really too bothered to look. But there isn’t that much on her. Obviously, her record’s a lot smaller than mine. She got a bye from the last stage of the competition. I expect the same in every fight. Like, I expect a girl to come for it. I train all over. I don’t fixate too much on striking or groundwork. I just make sure that my game has been worked, and I’m progressing as a fighter – a fighter as a whole – as a mixed martial artist. And, I’m ready for anything. And, that’s what I do each fight.

Fighting with the Family

You started training under the tutelage of your mother. I saw you crying in the ring in a video not long ago. How was it training under your mom for all those years?

I think people forget sometimes I’m at the best gym in the world now. I’m at American Top Team for MMA. But, at the same time, all my fundamentals and my whole career have been from my mum – simply, my mum. My striking has all come from my mum. And, even though I’ve got these amazing coaches now that are helping me, the coaches I’ve had along the way have just added and added to my game. All my fundamentals are from my mum. Everything was from her. She’s the woman that’s got me here for sure, and that’s just that skillset, mentally, everything. And, this belt will definitely be for her. She deserves it more than me. Sometimes I feel like I’m, I’m fighting for her, and that’s what motivates me

What advice would you pass on to others who are looking up to you now in the same way that your mom helped you and you looked up to your mom, what would you pass on to other people?

You can only do it if you love it. I think that’s what my mum’s always said to me. She’s never pushed me to do it. It’s always had to be what I want to do – and, because I love it so much and I wasn’t forced to do it. That’s why I’m here now. I feel the more I fall in love with training, the better I get. So, for anyone new that’s starting, just enjoy it. Just enjoy what you’re doing. Fall in love with the sport, with training. Try and do it with no pressure at the start. You don’t need to fight. Just enjoy the sport. You can get so much happiness from training.

And, the confidence, the mental strength, that this sport gives you is second to none. So I would 100-percent recommend it – mentally, physically, everything. Like, this sport changes people’s lives. And with my mom having a gym herself, I’ve seen it.

Aside from some of the technical stuff, what are some of the best lessons that your mother passed on from her to you?

Everything, to be honest – the determination, the not giving up, basically. She said to me, “If you’re going to do this, you’re going to go for it. You do it at your best. Do nothing half-hearted.”

I think that one of the things that she passed on to me now, is that I do everything with 100-percent. I don’t do anything with just my toes dipped in the water. I’m in there fully. I think that’s what makes me strong – the fact that I’m always 100-percent on something. No matter how it goes, I know that I’ve given my best, and that’s what I get from her. She doesn’t do anything half-hearted, that’s for sure.

PFL and the Future

And it feels like the PFL is just being so supportive of women right now with signings like Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall and the PFLW. What’s it like being in the PFL when they’re really in this moment of embracing women in combat sports?

It’s massive. They’ve got so many women involved now, and, just to be like involved in PFL Europe, that the launch of PFL Europe was massive. For me, I feel like they’ve picked up on a lot of talent that I thought could have been missed. This is like the middle stage now where we’ve not quite made it to the top, but we’re not at the bottom. We’re in that middle level. And, PFL kind of picked up on that now. To see all the women coming over and the switch from boxing to MMA, it’s amazing to see the eyes. And, it’s nice to see everyone coming together and mixing up a bit.

I did speak with Savannah Marshall, and I asked about you and she said, “Dakota could go pro in boxing.

She actually said that to me. She said it to my mom and my brother. And, I was, I mean, her, who’s just carried that all women’s show, headlined it. For her to say something like that to me, at the level she is, is just like crazy. It gave me a lot of confidence. So maybe you’ll see that one day. Maybe you’ll see Savannah training me. You never know. We’ll see what happens.

It seems like everything is in front of you – tournament finals, we’re talking about boxing, maybe. Looking into the future, five years from now, 10 years from now, what do you want?

I’m not a half-hearted person. As much as I’m gonna be fighting for a hundred thousand dollars, and, then, maybe next year, even more money, I want to be the best. I’m not satisfied with getting a big paycheck and taking a loss. That’s not me. The money sounds cool, but I want to be the best. So, I want to make sure that I’m winning this belt. And then, next year, I take the PFL belt again. I want to stay number one. That’s the most important thing to me, and, as long as I’ve got enough money to sort my family out and be set for the future, I’ll be 100-percent focused on keeping that number-one spot for sure.

I greatly appreciate your time. Thank you so much!

I just want to say thank you to PFL for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to performing on a big stage again. And, to all my sponsors, my gym, and especially to my family, because, honestly, I couldn’t do this without them. That’s for sure. So, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Dublin, and I expect a good night.