European karate champion to defend title

EUROPEAN karate champion Nato Ficarra of Chatteris is preparing for one final big fight which he says will be his “hardest and toughest challenge yet”.

One of the most successful martial artists in East Anglia’s history won the belt in 1992, 2008 and successfully defended it last year but is now preparing to defend his title one final time this December. The fighter, who turned 43 on Monday, is simply as ambitious as they come and can’t wait for the event in Milan.

The karate star said: “It’s the last big fight of my career and this is my hardest and toughest challenge yet.

“I absolutely think I can retain my belt and want to prove to myself that after all the years of hard work and training I’m still the best. I could bow out as a champion now but I want to give it one more shot, give it 100 percent and go out on a high.”

Ficarra teaches karate to children and adults in Sutton on a Tuesday evening among 10 other clubs around the region and understands that his career is coming to an end. He’s keen to act in a martial arts film too but remains as dedicated as ever as he enters his last six months of intense training to get ready for the competition.

He said: “At 10 years old I trained four times a week. Because of things like this I can still do the splits at the age of 43.

“When I was 12 my mates were playing football and riding bikes while I was training on Punch Bag’s and doing kicks. I still practice every day. I believe that I’m so good at what I do because I’ve worked so hard.”

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The driven martial arts expert runs every morning and will spend a week training with two former Italian squad members in Sicily during his programme. Ficarra, who has Italian parents, will then return to Milan in December with friends, family and loyal supporters before spending time in isolation such is his passion and dedication to retain his prized belt once again. The proud fighter knows how hard he will have to work to win the title for the fourth time.

“All eyes are on me as I’m the first fight. Everyone wants to beat the European Champion,” said Ficarra.

“I got floored for the first time at the last event and got up and beat him. He was French and much younger than me so it was an incredibly close contest. He will be there again so I have got to work even harder to keep improving.”

With pride and determination in abundance it’s no wonder that the 43-year-old wants one final swansong. Despite his hunger in beating competitors to the ground, the man many call the best in the UK is soft at heart and just wants to make his children proud again.

He added: “I’ve got two daughters, Daniella 14 and Victoria 12, who worry about me. I came back from my last competition battered, covered in bruises and with my tooth missing. I sat the girls down and they understand that it’s in my blood. I’m a fighter but my inspiration has always been to make my girls proud.”