Old amateur fight of Malia’s
Being around the fight world you see people come and go. Sometimes people move, sometimes they move on, but sometimes they stick around and you get to see people grow as people and as fighters. Malia Spanyol is a g. She’s been around for a while and I figured it was time I sat down and talk with her about fighting, gender, and how bad running really sucks.
Lucas: How long have you been fighting for?
Spanyol: I have been fighting for about four years.
Lucas: How did you get into fighting?
Spanyol: I was training and my trainer said “Do you want to fight,” and I said “Sure why not.” At that point I just loved Muay Thai and fighting was just a new goal to set. I’m not sure why I said yes, but I did.
Lucas: You fought a smoker? And then…
Spanyol: It was stressful but it was exciting. It gave me more goals, more things to practice on, more things to shoot for. It also gave me the desire to get better and better.
Lucas: You feel like it made a track for you?
Spanyol: I love it. It keeps me busy, it gives me something to do but its also made me want to learn more, to get better. I like being able to set goals for myself and to push myself, further and further.
Lucas: What do you like about fighting?
Spanyol: That I get to push myself. That I can see how far I can go. I can see if I can get better. That I can set goals and see if I can meet them.
Lucas: Are there things that you dislike about fighting?
Spanyol: I think the normal things that everyone dislikes. I hate running. I HATE running. If I could just do Muay Thai to get better that would be great but I can’t do that. I have to run I have to do strength and conditioning, all that its just… hard but you do it. It makes you stronger and it makes you a better fighter.
Lucas: You’ve started teaching muay thai classes, what do you think of that?
Spanyol: I love it. It gives a whole different perspective. I love Muay Thai and I want to learn more about it, and I think that teaching gives you a different perspective of things. Teaching makes you focus on the little things, on technique, and it makes you learn how to communicate that to others.
Lucas: Are there things you dislike about teaching?
Spanyol: No, not really.
Lucas: How many fights have you had?
Spanyol: Amateur, smokers, what are you counting?
Spanyol: I’ve had about seven or eight amateur fights and then about a dozen smokers.
Lucas: What are your plans for your fight career?
Spanyol: I think that I’m nowhere near getting out of amateur status yet. I want to fight as much as I can and see what happens.
Lucas: Are your trainers advising you to stay amateur or go pro?
Spanyol: No. We’re just taking everything one fight at a time.
Lucas: You just came back from Thailand, how was that?
Spanyol: I loved it, I absolutely loved it. If I could be on vacation everyday and do nothing but train twice a day I would. It was so much fun, and to not be cold when you’re training. I don’t like winter training.
Lucas: Its hard on your body.
Spanyol: I love a nice hot gym.
Lucas: Your body becomes looser in the heat. Whenever I come back from Thailand one of the first things I notice coming back is that my muscles tighten and atrophy. People are able to do Muay Thai quite successfully in cold environments but its just not fun. So where did you stay when you went to Thailand.
Spanyol: I stayed at Fairtex in Pattaya.
Lucas: What did you think of the facilities and everything?
Spanyol: They were great I really didn’t get to see any other gyms to compare to. I thought the training there especially was excellent. I worked with Jom and he was great.
Lucas: What did you like about him?
Spanyol: He was patient. He emphasized technique. He actually taught me things.
Lucas: What is something that you learned from him?
Spanyol: I practiced my clinch a lot with him and got better in that plus I learned how to get the most power in my blows.
Lucas: So you feel like the technical lessons were geared towards learning how to maximize power?
Lucas: You’ve started to do some strength and conditioning stuff with Mark Mian over at the Alter Center. What do you think of that? Why did you choose to start doing that? What do you feel like your gains and or losses are?
Spanyol: I went to Mark because I had just changed gyms. Jongsanaan recommended him to me. I’ve known Mark for years and I just never found the time to see him but I thought it was time to up my game. Mark is a genius, I think he secretly trains ninjas at night. He took a look at my form, my body, the way I fight and the way I train. He enhanced everything. He looked for the weak points and corrected it. There are some people that are just born gifted, natural athletes. I am not necessarily one of them. I have a few strong points but I am not necessarily naturally skilled. He has taken my body to a whole new level. I feel so much stronger. I feel more agile. My balance is better. My strength is better. Everything is just better, everything has gone up a notch.
Lucas: Have you seen those changes work in fights?
Spanyol: Absolutely, without a doubt.
Lucas: Have you seen any drawbacks to the training? Have you gained weight?
Spanyol: I’ve gained weight. I’ve put on a good 4 pounds on my walking weight of just muscle.
Lucas: Four pounds is not that bad.
Spanyol: Yeah especially on a girl my size, so its not that bad. I think the muscle was needed.
Lucas: So you switched gyms from Fight and Fitness to training with Jongsanaan. How do you feel about that? What made you decide to do that?
Spanyol: I feel like you train so long at one place you need something to just kick you up, to kick your feet out from under you so you can grow and learn. There’s some many different opinons and different things to learn, different views and different training techniques. I just needed a change of pace. Now I’m training with Jongsanaan. I’ve learned new technique, my style has changed, my fight strategy has changed, so has my training. Its made me a better fighter. I’ve learned so much more.
Lucas: Just seeing the world. Do you feel like there are any drawbacks to having switched gyms?
Spanyol: You know no gym is perfect, no trainer is perfect. You have to walk into it knowing that things are going to change. Its not the same way you used to train, its not the same things you used to do. You have to be willing to adjust.
Lucas: Where do you feel Muay Thai in the states is going?
Spanyol: I would hope that we are getting better in comparison to the world. We have a few really great fighters coming up. Kevin Ross is doing a stand up job here. Let’s hope that we can we can step up our game. In the Bay Area if you look at women has a HUGE amount of amazing fighters like Germaine, Miriam Nakamoto, and there’s a whole slew of top notch amateurs like Amber Pope, Miranda Cayuba, Jill Guido etc.
Lucas: Where do you think the female Muay Thai world is going?
Spanyol: Its hard to say, its really hard to say. I don’t think that we get the same amount of attention that guys do, but that’s true with nearly any sport. Sometimes there’s all women cards, and they do great. People want to see women fight but its hard. Getting on good cards is a struggle. You may have 12 fights and 2 of them might be women.
Lucas: What do you think the differences are between the male and female fight worlds? Do you think there’s a separation? Do you think there is a difference?
Spanyol: I think that men and women fight differently especially at the amateur level. I can’t even describe it. I love watching men fight and I wish that I could fight like that. Women’s fights are different though and I just don’t know why.
Lucas: I agree. I think that its hard to get to into the ring period and for women that’s athletic there’s more gender norms that they have to deal with so there’s more to prove. One of the exciting things about female fighters is that they tend to have bigger hearts than men because you have more balls to fight.
Spanyol: Yeah, you really have to overcome a lot more. Women are taught to be a certain way growing up. Fighting is not something that girls are supposed to do, its bad. I’m not sure that if its because we weren’t taught to be aggressive or angry and to have that adrenaline. Boys grow up getting into figh you’re used to the adrenaline rush. Maybe we’re not so accustomed to it and that’s why we fight differently. I don’t know but women do fight a little differently.
Lucas: I remember female friends that fight talking about not wanting to hurt people.
Spanyol: Its true sometimes you’ll hit someone and start apologizing. It took a long time for me to get over that feeling. In this most recent fight it was one of the first times I fought and I actually wanted to hurt someone. In previous fights it was always about wanting to practice things, getting better at my technique, doing things right. I never felt like I wanted to really hurt someone. I wanted to hit someone and I wanted to feel that.
Lucas: I’ve some read sports pyschology books and they’ve said that at a certain point your athletic training doesn’t really matter. Men and Women do have different bodies which is going to impact their training to some degree but to what extent is your outlook and things like gender going to effect how you fight. I actually did an interview a little while ago with Scott Marr from Boon. He was talking about Nong Toom, the famous ladyboy boxer, and Nong Toom didn’t like getting hit in the face. That impacted her fighting style. She didn’t want to get bruised, she wanted to stay pretty and so she adapted her fighting to that desire.
Spanyol: I think for a lot of us women that doesn’t matter. I’ll take a hit.
Lucas: (Laughs). I know that was just an example.
Spanyol: How do you manage your time between fighting and working?
Spanyol: I am actually lucky enough to have a flexible job where I am not stuck behind a desk from nine to five which is great. Its a matter of getting the work done and thats all that matters. If I have to wake up early or stay up late to get it done that’s fine. I am a lot more flexible because of that so I can come in, and get my jogging in or I can stay late if need be. I can be here six days a week and I find I can juggle my schedule.
Lucas: When was your last fight and how did it go?
Spanyol: May 7th in Arizona it was Bad Blood 12 run by Bob Karman. I fought Desiree Brandt. I personally thought that I did a really good job. I felt stronger than I ever have, we went five rounds. I stuck to my game plan that my coach and me had. I was able to do everything that I wanted to do. I thought I did great.
Lucas: Was it an elbow fight?
Spanyol: Yes. It was padded elbows. Which I’m pretty excited about. I wish we could use them more often. I know you’ve said that it sucks to get hit by an elbow but I love it as long as I can give elbow someone.
Lucas: Have you fought with elbows before?
Lucas: What was that like for you?
Spanyol: I love it. I feel like they come naturally to me. Unfortunately I didn’t get to train with them for very long as I didn’t get a lot of notice for this fight, and it was my first one. We just went did real basic elbow technique. It feels really good to elbow someone.
Lucas: That’s fucked up.
Spanyol: (Laughs) Especially since I tend to fight a lot of shorter opponents I feel like elbows are just one more tool, and one more advantage for me.
Lucas: Do you have any fights coming up?
Spanyol: I don’t. I would love to have one, but I never seem to find any.
Lucas: Why do you feel its hard to find fights?
Spanyol: I don’t know. I don’t know if its my weight, or my level. I don’t think there’s anyone from the bay area that fights at 125lbs.
Lucas: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Spanyol: I like that you’re doing this about me but there are so many quality women fighters in the bay area that I can’t even begin to count.