Kicking down barriers: Meet female Muay Thai fighter Nes Dally

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Nes Dally made history when she became the first female to compete in a Muay Thai stadium in Thailand wearing a hijab. We chat to the inspiring athlete about her career highlights, breaking down barriers and her community work as a Nike trainer…

When did you first get into Muy Thai?

I started Muay Thai around 9 years ago when I stumbled into a gym in Burnt Oak in north west London. I was at university at the time and was looking for something new from a sport. I’d competed in swimming most of my childhood and was generally obsessed with sports and exercise. I wanted to try a martial art as I had a feeling I could pack a little punch!

How does the sport make you feel?

The sport makes me feel so many beautiful things: strong, empowered, tough, elegant and skilled. I find it brings out the best in me physically and emotionally. It’s such a demanding sport on your body that every training session you need to push yourself way past your comfort zones and be able to ‘dig deep’ mentally and physically. It makes me so feel like I can conquer anything in life.

Tell us about your involvement with Nike…

I work for Nike as Nike Trainer for the London Network. It’s the most amazing and rewarding job. I work on several projects with them geared around helping, inspiring and encouraging ‘young London’ to move. I run some of the Nike Women’s event which are all about making exercise and sports fun and accessible for young women. They encourage an often very diverse group of young women to start their journey to moving more and to try out something new such as boxing. I’m working on a project now that involves 50 young people in Croydon getting the opportunity to become a qualified Personal Trainer. The qualification is completely funded and myself and five other Nike Trainers have been an integral part of delivering this educational course to them. Not only is the brand trying to encourage more young people to move but they are creating fantastic opportunities for youngsters to get a head start on their dreams.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

One of my biggest highlights has to be my comeback fight in Thailand last year. I became the first ever woman to compete in a Muay Thai stadium in Thailand in a hijab. For me this was a monumental moment. I was able to open the door for many other women who chose to compete in the sport whilst practising their faith. I also proved to myself that I could do what myself and many others thought was impossible. This was two years after I gave birth to my beautiful daughter and wasn’t sure I would ever step foot in a ring again. This moment changed my life and I hope its inspired many women to pursue their crazy dreams.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

Facing myself. Moments of doubt and fear when certain aspects of my life had changed. Seven years ago when I started wearing the hijab I thought my career would suffer greatly from this. My fear that I may not be respected, accepted or given a chance because I was obviously practising my faith. Working in an industry that can often be very focused on appearances and body shapes I struggled to think of how I would survive. I soon decided if I was going to continue I was going to make sure I would be more successful than I ever had been. I decided I wouldn’t let people’s opinions bother me and that if I put my heart and soul into my craft, the rest will fall into place – and it did. The passion I had for job only continued to grow and I believe along the way I broke down a few stereotypes about female coaches and personal trainers. I now have a full diary of clients and am more successful now in my career than I’ve ever been.

The fitness industry will be better when…

People care less about aesthetics and more about how exercise makes us feel and how it can uplift us. When booty plans, detox teas and brands like Gym Shark become a thing of the past. When young women feel confident to step into the weights area (or any area) of the gym and own their workout. And when women of all background and  socio-economic groups become more active in and outside the gym.

What are three things you wish you could tell your younger self?

1. Don’t ever try to please the crowd

2. You are enough

3. Make sure your dreams are so crazy they scare you

Where can we train with you?

Synergy Studio in north London. I train clients in a 1-2-1 setting and also run mixed & women only classes. Also check out the events section of and see what I’m up to there.

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