A Kirkintilloch-based fighter has become a European champion at the challenging martial arts discipline of Muay Thai.
Rhona Walker landed the European flyweight title by defeating reigning champion Anne-Line Hogstad of Norway at the recent Science of 8 promotion in Doncaster.
The 26-year-old - from Kilsyth but based at the M-Mag gym in Kirkintilloch - was delighted by the biggest prize of her career so far against the highly rated double world champion from Oslo.
She said: “When I first started out I didn’t really want to fight for titles because there’s a lot of them that don’t really mean a lot. It means more to fight someone good for a title.
“I didn’t want to have any titles that I wasn’t really proud of or thought it was a good achievement, so when that one came up I thought this was a good time to go for it.”
Despite her opponent’s pedigree Rhona, ranked number one in the UK, was confident she could win.
She said: “I knew that I had trained hard and that I was ready for the fight and that I had the ability.
“It was just all about putting it into practice on the day and actually performing.”
Rhona’s interest in martial arts began through her parents who both did Tae-kwondo before dad Cameron then progressed to Thai boxing.
That stimulated her initial interest and when she was older she decided she wanted to join in and give at a go.
Things took off for her when she joined M-Mag and really got moving thanks to a two-year stint living in Thailand, fighting from the renowned Sumalee Boxing Gym in Phuket.
She explained: “I’d been over for holidays a month at a time and on one of my visits on the way home I just decided that I didn’t really want to leave. So I went home, handed my notice to my job, went back two months later and stayed for two years.”
Because of Rhona’s work ethic and dedication she was offered a year sponsorship with Sumalee, where she worked closely with S1 champion, Phunkorn Sor. Chokkitchai, a Thai fighter with lighting fast left kicks and outstanding boxing skills, further developing Rhona’s style into Muay Femur style.
Rhona explained: “It’s their national sport. The fights there are constant. You’ll have one fight and then they’ll maybe get you to fight the next week if you’re not injured.
“Their attitude is ‘if your hand hurts you’ve got another one’ - ‘if you can still walk about and you’re all right you can still fight’ and that gave me a mental side which was really helpful.
“I was really able to push myself through a lot of difficult things and keep fighting.
“In Muay Thai you can use punches, kicks, knees, elbows and it’s not just scored on aggression, it’s scored on how you control a fight overall.
“Kicks and knees to the body are really high scoring because they’re the hardest things to land.
“If something’s difficult to land you’re seen as being the smarter fighter; technically you’re better than your opponent.
“I just want to keep fighting top ranked people, put on good performances and keep improving myself.”