Ashley Nichols was 15 when she took up boxing to help find focus and discipline.

Fourteen years later, with a string of combat sports titles to her credit, the fighter from Cambridge, Ont., looks to consolidate her place among the world Muay Thai elite.

Nichols, who won the World Professional Muay Thai 55-kilogram title in Thailand in December 2014, faces American Tiffany (Time Bomb) Van Soest on Friday for the vacant Lion Fight super-bantamweight title (120 pounds) in the co-main event of Lion Fight 27 in Temecula, Calif.

Van Soest, 26, is Lion Fight’s reigning female 125-pound champion. Nichols, who normally fights at 118 pounds, is making her debut in the Lion fight promotion.

“Tiffany has been annihilating opponents recently and wants to win titles in multiple weight classes, as great fighters in combat sports often do,” Lion Fight president Scott Kent said in a statement. “Ashley Nichols is the creme de la creme in Canada, with a world championship on her resume, and poses a formidable threat to Tiffany’s plans.

“Tiffany’s been destroying high-calibre opponents of late but Ashley Nichols is the real deal and has all the tools needed to pull the upset.”

Nichols has fought around the world but holds on strongly to her Chippewas of the Thames First Nations roots.

“That’s a very important part of who I am,” Nichols said.

In 2012 she was named a national aboriginal role model by the National Aboriginal Health Organization.

She believes Muay Thai fits well with her native background, given its respect to teachers and those who came before you.

“First Nations culture and traditions are similar,” she said. “They have many teachings that help you appreciate your life. One is giving thanks, showing respect to your elders.”

When Nichols is not training, she teaches at the MAS Academy of Martial Arts Training Center and has a full-time job in security — the exact nature of which she is unwilling to share. She also has to find time for strength and conditioning work.

It all makes for a busy day. She teaches a class from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m., goes to work then returns to the gym to teach and train.

Nichols’ speciality is Muay Thai but she has also competed in boxing and K-1 kickboxing. She studies Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has one MMA fight, a 2013 loss to current UFC strawweight contender Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos.

“Something I would like to do in the future,” Nichols said of MMA. “But for now I’m focusing on this fight.”

And she believes that while the spotlight is on MMA, which features both striking and the ground game, other combat sports are also drawing attention.

“I believe Muay Thai is also gaining that spotlight. Standup competitions are growing.”

The main event Friday sees Fabio Pinca (92-33) defend his Lion Fight welterweight title against Charlie Peters (33-14).