KickboxingZ spoke to rising British fighter Nicola “The Burmese Python” Barke.
Barke is one of the top female prospects in British kickboxing, and recently made the news when she signed on with the World Lethwei Council. If you’re not familiar with Lethwei, it’s a combat sport native to Myanmar that permits headbutts and elbows, in addition to punches, kicks, and knees. Lethwei participants wrap their hands, but do not wear gloves.
Barke suffered a setback recently when she lost a narrow decision in a kickboxing-rules bout to Katie Rand at the Muay Thai Grand Prix 24 event in London.
We caught up with Nicola recently, and she took time from her sunny Spain holiday to answer a few questions.
KickboxingZ: This past weekend, you faced Katie Rand at the MTGP 24 event in London. You lost by decision, in what some thought was a close fight. What are your thoughts on the match?
Nicola Barke: The fight was definitely close. I thought I had landed more clean shots throughout the fight to bag the win, however the fight was scored by majority decision in Katie’s favour. Of course, its not the result I wanted or envisioned, however I feel I won in many other ways. I was suffering with gastroenteritis in the lead up and on the day of the fight, and was violently sick all night and day. Maybe I shouldn’t have fought fully knowing I wasn’t 100% that day, but I took a risk, and irrespective of the result I am extremely proud of myself for having still put up a tough fight and showing real heart. I have been overwhelmed by all the support and kind words which only reminds me how blessed I am 🙏.
KickboxingZ: You didn’t get the decision, but last week you were in the news. Nicola Barke is now a contracted fighter for the World Lethwei Championship organization.
You had the dream to compete in lethwei to honor your heritage because your mother is from Myanmar. How does it feel to be getting closer to your lethwei debut?
Lethwei seems to be a lot more dangerous than K-1 rules with headbutts and elbows allowed, and hand wraps instead of gloves. Were there any concerns about fighting under lethwei rules?
Nicola Barke: I am extremely excited to debut under Lethwei rules. Yes, of course its more dangerous, but that’s the thrill and excitement of the sport! Its the ultimate fighting in my eyes. I always wanted to represent my mother and my heritage, and make myself, family, gym, and the people of Myanmar proud too. Now this opportunity is here! I absolutely adore fighting, and I cannot wait to fight there myself. My coach, Amir Subasic, is a black belt in karate and has a wealth of experience in bare knuckle combat. I know I am (in) good hands. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to fight Lethwei. I will give it everything I have got! Thank you WLC for the opportunity 🙏
KickboxingZ: Your background is different from a lot of professional fighters. You studied ballet when you were younger, and currently work in the banking industry. (Note: Barke works in the digital banking division of a major international firm) What is it about training and competing in combat sports you enjoy the most?
Nicola Barke: Yes, but different is good. It makes my wins all that more worth it, because it’s not easy and there are so many sacrifices and hurdles I make daily. But I’m happy doing this because fighting is what awakens my soul, it’s my passion in life. I find everything about fighting enthralling-the way it allows you to push your body beyond its limits and tests you mentally and emotionally. Even the technical aspects, learning new tricks and creating a game plan. Fighting is a way of life for me. I started in Taekwondo which taught 5 key tenets that I take pride in living my life by: courtesy, respect, indomitable spirit, self control and perseverance.
KickboxingZ: You spend a lot of time in training, and you also work full-time. When you’re not training or working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Nicola Barke: There really isn’t much spare time left. I spend my lunch breaks training or watching fights. At the weekend, I spend my time cleaning, food shopping, and cooking all my meals for the week so I eat clean. Then I visit my parents, sister and grandparents. I don’t have any other hobbies really, and I’m happy with that. I want to spend as much of my life as I can pursuing my dreams.
KickboxingZ: That’s all the questions I have for now. Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say or anyone you’d like to thank?
Nicola Barke: Always. I want to thank my mother for always believing in me and supporting me in achieving my dreams. Id like to thank my coach Amir Subasic and the Storm Gym family for pushing me to be the best I can. Thank you to all the teams, and people who support and sponsor me, namely King Tape, Hardiman Performance, The Fight Dietician, LeapFrog Combat Sports, Kryjer, and Tom Camp Green Fitness. Of course, a huge thank you to my fellow supporters and fans across the globe, especially all those in Myanmar. I am incredibly grateful. 🙏
Photo Credit: Muay Thai Grand Prix
Kickboxing Z would like to thank our friend Amir Subasic for his assistance in arranging this interview.